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New, deadlier dengue strain alarms health execs

/ 11:07 PM February 20, 2013

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Leomar Fabian was very active despite having high fever on Saturday and, by all indications, he was on the road to recovery.

There was no outward sign that the 11-year-old boy was quickly being debilitated by dengue—his platelet count was dropping fast.

He continued playing with his toys in his hospital bed. Last Sunday, his parents’ pained cries filled the hospital.


“The playful kid died of dengue,” said Dr. Rodelin Agbulos, the city health officer. Cases similar to Leomar’s have been reported elsewhere.

While health authorities are uncertain, a more virulent strain of dengue may have infected Leomar, one that kills more quickly than older strains.

Dr. Eric Tayag, assistant health secretary, warned last year that a new strain of dengue, Serotype 4, is spreading.

It was first monitored in Western Mindanao in 2010. According to Tayag, it might have replaced an older strain, Serotype 2.

In 2010, Serotype 4, a deadlier strain, was prevalent in Zamboanga City, according to Dr. Norvie Jalani, of the Department of Health’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit in Western Mindanao.

Tayag said the migration of people played a vital role in the spread of the new strain. Cases of Serotype 4 also surfaced outside Zamboanga City.

Agbulos, the Zamboanga City health officer, said dengue used to spread to a radius of only 3 kilometers from where it originated. Now, cases of dengue have spread to as far as 73 km from their origin.

Emedina Amasona, spokesperson of the Zamboanga City Medical Center, said “outsiders” have indeed contributed to the spike in the number of cases in the hospital. As of Feb. 4, the hospital had 171 cases of dengue. Two patients died.


Dr. Dulce Dagalea, medical officer of the city health office’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, said the number of dengue cases is alarming. During the first two months of 2012, the number of dengue cases reached 359 with three deaths only.

“Now we have 372 cases with eight deaths already,” she said.

The Northern Mindanao office of the Department of Health listed a sharp spike in the number of dengue cases in the region from 315 in December to 400 in January. Julie Alipala and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao

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