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Mosquito Bites

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In June, during the observance of ASEAN Dengue Day (June 15) in San Fernando Pampanga, the Department of Health and the Philippine Information Agency launched the dengue "text blast." Under the system, the PIA conducts a mobile phone ‘text blast’ about dengue prevention in an affected area while the health teams conducted investigation. In July, the encouraging result of the rigorous testing of anti-dengue mosquito traps landed in the State of the Nation Address of President Benigno S. Aquino III in Congress. In the middle of August, dengue cases breached the 80,000 mark, that is 80,745 cases from January 1 to August 18 and 14.14 percent higher compared to the same period last year at 70,745 cases. Deaths from dengue also increased from 424 last year to 496 this year. Majority of the cases continued to be in the National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon and CaLaBaRZon.

 

Despite these news, dengue did not end up as the top health news, and in fact became just one of three mosquito-borne diseases in the news this year. Hogging the news limelight with dengue is the disease called "chikungunya" – a mosquito-borne disease that affects mainly adults which causes fever, severe joint pain and shares clinical signs with, but is not as deadly as, dengue. There is no cure for this viral disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms. Moreover, chikungunya merits the same urgency from doctors and patients.

 

Health Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag said that chikungunya is not new in the Philippines as cases have been reported in the previous years. He said that in 1990s, the country already had cases and last year, there were more than 1,000 cases reported.

 

This year, the first to report chikungunya was Cagayan de Oro. Tayag said in news reports it is possible that Chikungunya-causing Aedes aegypti mosquitoes bit some of the relief workers who went to Cagayan de Oro during the devastation caused by Typhoon Sendong and they brought the virus when they returned home.

 

Chikungunya cases are being reported in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Albay, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao and Caraga. In September, the DOH monitored the reported outbreak in Surigao del Sur, and on reports that some 114 cases were recorded, Tayag said only a few of them were confirmed to be chikungunya.

 

In October, Tayag said that the DOH has been analyzing if cases of the disease reported in several parts of the country are connected to the cases in Cagayan de Oro. He added that the 600 cases recorded nationwide this year are not likely to surpass the more than 1,000 cases in 2011. On the brighter side of prevention and control of mosquito-borne diseases in the country, Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona announced in August the possibility of the Philippines being malaria-free by 2020 as he cited data that showed an 80% decrease in malaria cases in 2011 as compared to 2003. He said that this decrease is the lowest malaria level on record for the country in 42 years, with only 9,642 cases in 2011 as compared to 43,441 in 2003, and that the country’s Millennium Development Goal No. 6 of halting and reversing the incidence of malaria by 2015 have already been met.

 

He also explained that of the 58 provinces which are currently listed as endemic, nine have actually reached elimination status (or do not have malaria cases for at least 3 years) and are in various stages of evaluation. Forty (40) are on the way to elimination status, reporting less than one case per 1,000 population-at-risk, and 10 provinces have their cases under control.

 

The nine provinces that have reached elimination status are: Abra, Batanes, Camarines Sur, Cavite, Dinagat, Laguna, Misamis Oriental, Quirino, and Romblon. Only two provinces (Palawan and Tawi-Tawi) report more than 1,000 cases a year and only four have more than 100 cases but less than 500 cases a year (Sulu, Maguindanao, Mindoro Occidental, and Zambales).

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