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Keynote Message of Secretary Enrique T. Ona - Dengue Summit

April 13, 2012



A pleasant morning to everyone.

Allow me first to recognize our partners who are here today. We have representatives from the Liga ng mga Barangay which was very instrumental up to know in implementing our community level campaigns against Dengue. I am very glad that we also have with us the League of Municipalities of the Philippines and the League of Provinces of the Philippine as they are critical stakeholders in our efforts to successfully defeat the menace that is Dengue. I’ve always said that winning the war against Dengue entails victories on the numerous fronts around the country. And the presence of the reps from our partners in the LGUs shows that their commitment to wage this battle early on.

We’d also like to recognize our partners in the various National Government Agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Education, the Philippine Information Agency, and the Metro Manila Development Authority who have supported not only the Department of Health but also our LGUs in the fight against Dengue.

Welcome to our 2nd Dengue Summit.  In 2010, we experienced the worst outbreak of dengue in the country in 10 years. More than 173,000 cases were recorded exceeding the record high infection rates we had in 1998 when other countries in the Southeast Asian region also reported major dengue outbreaks. This prompted us to call for a Dengue Summit around the same time last year to map out our strategy against Dengue. And I would say that we achieved considerable success in our fight against Dengue in 2011. Around 126,000 Dengue cases were reported from January to December 2011 which is 27% lower than the number of cases reported in 2010. Of course, we observed the usual peak during the months of July, August, and September which undoubtedly placed our Dengue Control efforts under the public microscope.  But this was not as terrible as the peak we had in the previous year.

Credit should be given to our collective action and our strong political commitment against Dengue. Last year several initiatives were launched in the fight against Dengue. In June 15 of last year, the start of our country’s rainy season, we marked the first year observance of the ASEAN Dengue Day as we joined our ASEAN neighbors who have contended with the similar Dengue outbreaks year in and year out. We mobilized to intensify public awareness on Dengue prevention. We held a motorcade to remind our countrymen of the simple steps they can pursue to prevent the spread of Dengue. We had a MOA signing with the Liga ng mga Barangay who committed to undertake a comprehensive Dengue campaigns at the community level. This was of course followed by a media blitz to continuously remind the public on how to prevent Dengue. In August of 2011, we followed this up with the ABKD or the Aksyon Barangay Kontra Dengue which emphasized the need for regular and consistent clean-up activities in all communities to especially those with clustering of Dengue cases. This of course consisted of the unwavering technical support of the DOH and other NG agencies in disease surveillance, outbreak response and other Dengue control activities. For example, the DOH and the DOST facilitated the field testing of the O/L Traps which was beneficial in early identification of disease outbreaks as well as in control the proliferation of Aedes aegypti, the vector of the Dengue virus.

While a huge chunk of our efforts were directed at vector control to prevent the spread of diseases, we also improved treatment and management of Dengue cases in hospitals. We constantly updated and reviewed case management protocols and guidelines to respond to increasing challenges brought about by treating numerous patients at a time. We pursued trainings for health professionals for better management of these cases. More importantly, Dengue is among the 23 conditions included in PhilHealth Case Payment Scheme which provides all-in rates for medical conditions in procedures. Dengue I or uncomplicated covers P8,000 of your hospital bill while Dengue covers 16,000. If the patient is an indigent and is admitted in a government hospital, the family need not shell out a single centavo for their hospitalization as this is included in the No-Balance Billing or Walang Dagdag Bayad of PhilHealth.

For 2012, it has been so far so good. From January 1 to March 24, 2012, a total of 15,536 dengue cases have been report and this is even 30.10% lower compared to the same time period last year (22,227). But of course, we can never be complacent. In about 3 months, with the onset of the rainy season, we are anticipating the increasing numbers of Dengue cases. If we do nothing, we will be again over our heads come July and August when our public hospitals are being filled to the brim with Dengue patients and Dengue outbreaks are being reported left and right. We do not want that to happen this year. More than outdoing the number of cases in 2011, our target is less than 100,000 cases for 2012. It seems a tall order for all of us but I believe that if we work together, this can be achieved.

We are probably 2 years away a from a Dengue vaccine which will drastically reduce the number of Dengue cases in the country. We know this because we are coordinating with the researchers and manufacturers in the development of these vaccines. Given this limitation, the only way we can achieve our target is if all stakeholders – Local Governments up to the Barangay level, the National Government, non-governmental organizations, most especially the private sector – should intensify their collaboration and cooperation to implement a holistic and comprehensive Dengue Control action plan. Again the emphasis should be at the community level, specifically the barangay health brigades.  In addition, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) can communicate with the communities regarding Dengue and facilitate the flow of public information.  This is where integrated vector control management will have its greatest impact. Local leaders should take responsibility and spearhead clean-up activities or the search and destroy strategies to prevent the breeding of Dengue-causing mosquitoes. They should also spearhead information dissemination drives in their areas to remind the citizens in their localities to institute Dengue prevention measures as self protection with insect repellants and long-sleeves.

National government agencies through their Regional Offices must strengthen its technical and logistical support to LGUs in implementing Dengue Control measures. This of course includes disease surveillance, outbreak response particularly fogging of hotspots, delivery of critical commodities such as insecticide treated curtains, nets in high risk areas. Research is going to be key element in ensuring that we have a full arsenal of strategies to combat Dengue all year round.  As an example of Dengue related researches, Dr. Pio Javier of UP Los Banos has a research on the water bug, Diplonychus rusticus.  Preliminary laboratory evaluations showed that D. rusticus is a very voracious feeder of dengue mosquito larvae. The field release of the water bug appears to be a promising and safe control strategy against Dengue.

Today’s National Dengue Summit will be a venue to again discuss our plan of action against Dengue for 2012. Our plans should be focused and directed.  We must target the source of the mosquito eggs in the hope of eradicating the root cause of Dengue.  Various speakers from the DOH, foreign development partners, and academe will discuss the different aspects of our Dengue control program. More importantly, we have representatives from our partners in the local government to share with all of us their own innovations in fighting Dengue. In relation to that, we have poster presentations from different regions highlighting these same innovations which all of us can learn from.

For the next 8 months, I hope we can have a very fruitful discussion of how all of us can pitch in the fight against Dengue and by the end of the day, I hope we have a clear and comprehensive plan of action which all stakeholders can abide by in order for us to reach our target reducing the burden of Dengue not only 2012 but in the years to come.

Thank you and good afternoon