MANILA, Philippines - From January to July this year, the Department of Health (DoH) has recorded 38,876 dengue cases and 226 deaths.
Speaking to ANC's "Dateline Philippines Sunday," DOH National Epidemiology Center chief Dr. Eric Tayag said this is significantly lower compared to last year, owing mainly to early consultations and improved reporting.
"In the national scope, we have a 25.8% decrease this year, but dengue peaks during August to September, the perfect time it spreads in other areas."
Despite this, the Health department has voiced alarm over the 135% spike in dengue cases in the National Capital Region, or a total of 9,493 recorded dengue cases. Most of the cases were recorded in Quezon City, Manila and Caloocan.
The DOH warned the number could further balloon in the coming months.
Earlier this month, Dingras Ilocos Norte was placed under a state of calamity. Ilocos Sur was also placed under a state of calamity as the number of cases grew at an alarming rate.
Tayag said the DOH is now keeping a close watch on dengue hotspots, where there has been an increasing number of cases for two consecutive weeks.
“We are monitoring closely the events in Ilocos Sur because aside from Sto. Domingo, there are other barangays and municipalities with an increasing number of cases and a few deaths that may escalate into outbreaks in the next few weeks,” he said.
These areas include: Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur; Mabini, Pangasinan; La Trinidad, Benguet; and Payatas, Fairview, and Commonwealth in Quezon City.
Hospitals in these areas have been advised to implement dengue express lanes to facilitate consultations with suspected dengue cases.
Tayag added despite the low number of cases recorded in the Visayas and Mindanao, the next few weeks will also be critical in these areas.
“We’re now watching Visayas and Mindanao, because they have low numbers but in the next few weeks it will be critical because if there will be outbreaks, then our year-end dengue numbers will be higher compared to last year."
Tayag said the public should stay vigilant against a virus that doesn't choose when to strike.
“The fight against dengue now all year round because the number of cases we have seen increasing in areas in country... While we have reduced fatalities, 226 is still big. The more cases we see, the more risk of deaths from dengue,” he added.
The Health department said the Philippines is among the top four countries in Asia with the highest number of dengue cases.
"Last year was a bad year for us, the last pandemic for dengue was in 1998, along with almost all countries in Southeast Asian region had outbreaks, but now we hope to have a 40% to 60% reduction compared to last year."
In a bid to fight the spread of dengue, the DOH is conducting an intensive anti-dengue campaign.
The agency encourages local government units to implement the 4S strategy in their localities:
- Search and destroy all mosquito breeding sites (meant to reduce the density of the mosquito population);
- Self-protection measures (making homes mosquito-proof, wearing long-sleeved clothes);
- Seek consultation (high-grade fever occurs 4-10 days from exposure, and complications occur when the fever subsides);
- Say no to fogging. Tayag said the DOH is not recommending this.
"Intravenous fluids are the cornerstones of treatment. We want to remind people there's no need for so much blood for dengue. It’s intravenous fluid replacement that is necessary. Monitoring platelet count is done in the hospital,” he said.
Tayag said dengue is everyone's concern and should involve communities. He noted the approach to surveillance should be targeted to vulnerable areas and potential breeding sites of dengue mosquitoes.
"In Quezon City, we have so many tires and these are favored breeding sites. We have to handle solid waste, food containers, bottles that collect water. Even posh villages, inside and outside homes, refrigerators, drains. Communities with water problems are vulnerable to dengue because they will store water. They don't cover them and they become breeding sites,” he added.
"Your mosquito is the mosquito of others," Tayag said, stressing mosquitoes can travel 100 meters away from their place of origin.
"We want to make this a habit where communities gather, look for sites and even kids can help during weekend.”
Tayag noted the dengue vaccine that's being developed will not be available until 2014.
In June this year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) called on all sectors of society to unite in the battle against the disease, which had become a formidable threat in Asia, and had a significant impact on the socio-economic status of the member states.
The meeting revealed that Asia-Pacific bears 75% of the burden from dengue.
Tayag noted countries like Singapore are taking aggressive steps in dealing with the threat of dengue, for example, banning the use of gutters.
Against a virus that has continued to baffle experts, Tayag said communities together with other stakeholders should keep their guard up against it.
Aside from dengue, Tayag said the DOH is also keeping an eye on other weather and flood-related illnesses like diarrhea, influenza, respiratory tract infection, and leptospirosis.
He also pointed out troubling findings regarding leptospirosis cases.
"Leptospirosis has increased to 73%. Most cases were recorded in Western Visayas, Bicol. Manila is lagging behind, but cases are increasing this time of the year."
“There's a new manifestation that is not common in leptospirosis [which is] neurological paralysis that is not commonly seen in usual patients that suffer from fever and muscle pain,” he added. – with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News