MANILA, Philippines - What started as a small battle against dengue fever has become an "all-out war."
Officials of the Department of Health (DOH), led by Health Secretary Enrique Ona, have begun going around the metropolis to make sure that health centers and hospitals are well-equipped to deal with the rising number of dengue fever cases.
Ona and his group first stopped by Mandaluyong City, where 251 cases have been recorded since January this year, one of the highest in Metro Manila.
The health secretary said he wants to see to it that patients are treated as early as the first stages of dengue to avoid complications and more deaths.
He also encouraged the public to maximize their health centers for consultations to declog hospitals of long queues in the dengue express lanes.
Ona stressed that a higher budget for the DOH is needed to conduct more thorough research on ways to combat the mosquito-borne disease.
In the meantime, he said they are working with local government units in handling the sudden rise in dengue cases in the country.
Dengue fever is an acute illness caused by a bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito. In the Philippines, dengue usually occurs during the rainy season, or from June to September.
As of August 28 this year, dengue cases in the country have ballooned to 69,594, about 99% higher than the 34,997 recorded in the same period in 2009.
There were 501 deaths recorded across the country, a huge leap from last year's 369.
The DOH earlier devised a strategy to educate the public on home treatment of mild dengue cases in an effort to decongest hospitals.
Ona said, however, that patients should be brought to the emergency room if they exhibit dengue warning signs such as abdominal pain or persistent vomiting, red spots or patches on the skin, signs of bleeding, black stools, drowsiness or decreased consciousness, difficulty in breathing, and pale or cold clammy skin. -- Report from Sol Aragones, ABS-CBN News