Iloilo City fights back against dengueBy Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
ILOILO CITY—As a public health worker, Nelia Andion should focus on the supplemental feeding program for children of Barangay Bolilao in Iloilo City as one of her duties.
But for the past two months, she has been preoccupied with orienting and reminding residents to clean up their surroundings as cases of dengue fever have surged in the community.
Dengue is a mosquito-borne infection caused by the Aedes aegypti mosquito which triggers a severe flu-like illness. It has no known cure and can be fatal. It is mostly found in tropical and subtropical climates worldwide, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas.
Bolilao, a village in Mandurriao District with a population of about 11,000, has the biggest number of dengue cases among the city’s 180 barangays. From January to May, 34 cases, including one fatality, were recorded in the village.
Highest in 19 years
The figure was also the highest in 19 years that its barangay chair, Nenita Juson, could remember since she became a public official. “We barely had a case last year and in 2010, we had three or four. We don’t know why this is happening,” she said.
To check the upswing, health workers and barangay officials have been conducting daily cleanups and monitoring of possible breeding places of mosquitoes, as well as educating the people on preventing infection and seeking early treatment for those afflicted.
“It is time-consuming and tiring work, but we cannot let our guard down,” said Andion, who receives P3,000 monthly from the city government and the barangay as a health worker.
In Barangay Calumpang in Molo District, the number of dengue cases had reached 42 as of June 13, according to its chair, Roberto Niño Jr. With a population of 14,000, it has the second-biggest number of
Niño said he was surprised by the high incidence of dengue fever in Calumpang.
“Our cleanup campaign has been nonstop and we had only less than 10 cases last year,” he said.
Records from the city health office showed that from January to May, 536 cases were reported in 162 barangays. The bulk of the cases (231) occurred in April and May, and involved children aged 5 to 14 years.
Seven persons, mostly children, have died.
The five-month figure has surpassed the 433 cases reported throughout 2011, said
Dr. Mae Delmo, dengue coordinator of the city health office. She said it was expected to rise during the usual peak months of July and August before dropping in October and November.
Health officials, however, hoped that the number would not reach or surpass the 1,897 cases reported in 2010, when the city and the Western Visayas region were among the areas with the biggest number of dengue cases nationwide.
According to Delmo, the recent upsurge could be partly due to the early onset of the rainy season, which is favorable for the breeding of dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
Dengue carriers may have also mutated, she said.
The virus has four strains, and those immune to one strain can still be infected by others.
Communities may also have slackened in identifying and cleaning up mosquito breeding areas after the drop in the number of cases in 2011, Delmo said.
“Barangay officials have complained that many of their constituents were dependent on them to do the cleanup. Everybody should be involved because no one can be exempted from possible infection,” the health official said.
Aside from spraying potential breeding places, villages have also utilized ovicidal-larvicidal (OL) traps being distributed by the Department of Science and Technology. The OL traps are cup-like devices that attract mosquitoes to lay eggs which are killed by organic and nontoxic solutions.
The city government has met many times with health workers and barangay officials to address the problem and to push for basic prevention measures, such as the daily
“4 o’clock habit” cleanup and “kaya-kulob (faceup, facedown)” which involves the emptying of bottles, cans, containers and other objects with accumulated water where mosquitoes can breed.
In Bolilao, the 10 members of the barangay council, 19 watchmen or “tanod,” 10 health workers and 10 sweepers have been mobilized for the cleanup drive.
Even beneficiaries of the government’s poverty alleviation program, 4Ps, have been tapped to help, Juson said.
Juson said the residents needed to be prodded to join the campaigns.
“I sometimes get into near-fights when I get angry at residents who order around officials to do the cleaning for them even in their own backyards,” Andion said.
Niño said increased awareness through constant education would always be the key in confronting the disease. Residents of Calumpang are now seeking immediate medical attention and examination for those with flu-like symptoms, he said.
“We need to sustain and further heighten our efforts because we are always vulnerable and the pattern of dengue case has become unpredictable,” he added.
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