DOH: Dengue epidemic of staggering proportions

The Department of Health on Tuesday declared a national dengue epidemic in view of the alarming surge in cases that have claimed 622 patients, most of them children.
PREPARING FOR THE WORST. Images of anxiety and hope inside the overcrowded Dr. Rafael Tumboko Memorial Hospital in Kalibo, Aklan with dengue patients—counting 3,000 from January this year until Monday—with 15 deaths, according to provincial hospital officials, who say they are preparing for the worst and peak of dengue cases this month. Revoli Cortez
READ: Dengue alert nationwide

In a press briefing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said there were 146,062 cases of dengue from January to July, 98 percent higher from the same period last year.

DOH records showed that Western Visayas has the highest number of dengue cases with 23,330; Calabarzon (16,515) cases; Zamboanga Peninsula (12,317) cases; Northern Mindanao ((11,455) cases; and Socsargen (11,083) cases.

READ: Dengue outbreak worsens in Samar

“It is important that a national epidemic be declared in these areas to identify where a localized response is needed and to enable the local government units to use their Quick Response Fund to address the epidemic situation,” Duque said at the headquarters of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council along with its chairman, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Other regions that have exceeded the threshold of dengue cases were Region I (Ilocos) with 4,396 cases; Region 7 (Central Visayas) with 10,728; and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) with 2,301.

He described the rate at which dengue was spreading “staggering.”

“If you multiply it into 52 weeks, it could possibly reach 260,000 cases [by the end of the year] and this is really staggering. This is the compelling reason why we are declaring a... national dengue epidemic,” Duque said.

At present, there is no effective and affordable vaccine in the market against the four deadly strains of the dengue virus.

In the absence of such a vaccine, Duque urged all government agencies, schools, different offices, including private entities and communities to clean their surroundings, particularly mosquito breeding areas, to eventually decimate the female Aedes egypti mosquito that carries the dengue virus.

“Starting today, the Department of Health together with other government agencies, LGUs, schools, offices, and communities will conduct the “Sabayang 4-O’clock habit para Dengue-Get Out,” focusing on search and destroy of mosquito breeding sites. This is one of the primary interventions to prevent and control dengue,” Duque said.

Duque also expects cluster members of the NDRRMC, to include the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in committing its personnel to battle the spread of the dengue virus.

He said that LGUs, particularly those had severe dengue cases could use their quick respond fund to address their respective concerns, particularly for the needed supply and logistics.

Lorenzana, for its part, issued a memorandum circular mandating all member agencies to support the national dengue epidemic response.

Citing the 98 percent spike in cases, the Health Department has asked Lorenzana to convene a full council meeting.

The DOH can mobilize funds from the P177-million dengue program budget and the P40 million allotted for the most affected regions. If these are not enough funds, then the Quick Response Fund can be used.

Meanwhile, Rep. Janette Garin said she was thankful that Malacañang is open to the return of the Dengvaxia anti-dengue vaccine.

Garin, who is still facing a slew of criminal and civil cases in connection with the use of the controversial vaccine during her watch as the Health secretary during the Benigno Aquino III administration, said she hoped the DOH would listen to “real experts” and not be swayed by “faken news peddlers.”

The widespread use of Dengvaxia caused a scare when the manufacturer, Sanofi-Pasteur of France, admitted that the vaccine could exacerbate the symptoms of dengue in people who have not been afflicted by the disease.

The vaccine is being blamed for the deaths of some 100 people, most of them children.

When Dengvaxia was purchased by the Aquino administration, the vaccine was still on Phase IV of its clinical trial that entailed the determination of its side effects when used over time—although it had already been approved by government regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration.

READ: Employ 4S strategy to fight dengue—DOH chief

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Topics: Department of Health , national dengue epidemic , dengue , Francisco Duque
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