The government is still bracing for a spike in dengue cases in the coming months, as officials have resorted to expanding the use of the “4S” method among communities, monitoring new cases, and treating patients as they come—without a vaccine to counter the mosquito-borne viral disease.
READ: Employ 4S strategy to fight dengue—DOH chief
Unlike before when dengue had a distinct “cycle” every three years, a ranking Department of Health official on Friday noted that “every year now is a dengue year.”
DOH Epidemiology Bureau chief Dr. Chito Avelino attributed the change in the pattern of dengue incidence to “some modifications” like climate change, urbanization, and poor waste management.
He also said it’s too early to say if the disease has been contained.
“Right now, we still can’t see that dengue is under control because, in the first place, we don’t have the vaccine to prevent it after the use of Dengvaxia was stopped,” said Avelino.
“Our monitoring is being done week by week. Based on the current reports, the current cases are going up,” he also told Manila Standard in a phone interview.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III previously said records from the DOH epidemiology bureau showed a total of 208,917 cases of dengue fever from Jan. 1 to Aug. 10. This was way higher than in 2018 when 102,298 dengue cases were listed in the same period.
The DOH noted that 882 dengue-related deaths were recorded from Jan. 1 to Aug. 10, again higher than 540 deaths recorded in the same period last year.
Recent DOH records also showed that the number of dengue cases spiked by 40 percent to 12,802 cases reported from Aug. 4 to Aug. 10 this year, from 9,149 cases recorded in the same period in 2018.
In the World Health Organization’s Situation Report on dengue released last week, 271,480 dengue cases—including 1,107 deaths—were reported from January to August this year, 113 percent higher than in 2018.
WHO also said 12,526 newly reported dengue cases and 41 deaths were posted between Aug. 25 and 31. That decreased from 13,192 cases in the preceding week but is still 52 percent higher than in the same epidemiological week in 2018.
Based on the three-year cycle for dengue, Avelino said 2019 is a dengue year for the Philippines.
But this year, the cycle is not just for the Philippines but also its neighboring Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Laos, and Myanmar.
For the last week of August, the Philippines had a Weekly Case Fatality Rate of 0.33 percent—significantly higher than the regional average of 0.22 percent in the Western Pacific, WHO noted.
Due to the absence of an anti-dengue vaccine, Avelino said the DOH will provide the necessary support to prevent the further spread of dengue.
Once symptoms are present, a person is advised to seek medical consultation by immediately going to the nearest health center or hospital, he said.
The DOH will also provide laboratory confirmation of the viral disease, aside from boosting its information campaign on the implementation of the 4S.
But most part of the prevention, Avelino stressed, lies heavily on the local government and the communities.
“We are asking for their huge engagement. The acts in the prevention and management if dengue cases should be synchronized. They should hand in hand complement,” said Avelino.
One example is in Taguig City, where teaching school children to protect themselves from the dreaded dengue was the next step in the local government’s program to address the spread of the disease.
On Sept. 18, City Health and Local School Board officials distributed long socks to thousands of school children to introduce “Self-Protection” measures to them.
Self-Protection is an important component of the government’s 4-S anti-dengue campaign which also includes “Search and destroy mosquito-breeding sites,” “Seek early consultation” and “Support spraying or fogging.”
The long socks were given to more than 2,800 Daycare, Kinder and Grades 1-3 pupils at EM’S Signal Village Elementary School. Some 1,575 female pupils enrolled in Grades 4-6 also received two pairs of high-knee socks each.
Avelino noted that all breeding sites of dengue mosquitoes should be eradicated at the same time to avoid a relapse of the situation.
“It is important that while the DOH is treating [dengue] cases, we should ensure that no breeding sites exist and the 4S are being carried out,” he explained.
Duque had declared a National Dengue Epidemic on Aug. 6, as he called on all regional DOH offices to step up dengue surveillance, case management, and outbreak response, clean-up drives, and vector control in health facilities and communities.
He also underscored the need to conduct “Sabayang 4-O’Clock Habit Para sa Deng-Get Out,” focusing on search and destroy of mosquito breeding sites and to enable LGUs to use their quick response funds to help address the epidemic. With Joel Zurbano
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