Dengue woes: 5,000 new cases in just a week
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — In his last days as mayor of Janiuay town in Iloilo, Jose “Jojo” de Paula focused his energies on the cleanup of villages ahead of the rainy season and the anticipated annual rise of dengue cases.
Then, almost two weeks after he stepped down from office, he lost his only child to the mosquito-borne disease.
“My daughter’s death should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to triple our efforts, never to slacken and help institutionalize dengue infection prevention measures,” De Paula said in an interview on Tuesday.
On July 15, the Department of Health (DOH) for the first time declared a national dengue alert, after the viral illness claimed the lives of at least 450 people in the first six months of the year.
In Iloilo province, hospitals have been overflowing with dengue patients, many of them being treated along hallways.
A gymnasium in Maasin town has been converted into a treatment center. In other parts of the province, more health personnel have been deployed and tents readied to accommodate patients.
Dengue is a mosquito-borne disease with four known strains. The disease has no known cure and can be fatal.
The DOH on Saturday said an additional 5,744 new cases were recorded in just the week of June 30 to July 6. That figure is 22 percent higher than the 4,703 cases in the same period last year.
The death toll since the start of the year has climbed to 491, according to the DOH.
There have been 115,986 dengue cases nationwide so far this year, already almost double the 62,267 cases recorded in 2018.
Children age 5 to 9 years old accounted for nearly a quarter of all dengue cases.
Five days after the national dengue alert was declared, the DOH said most of the cases are in the following areas: Central Visayas (9,259), Northern Mindanao (9,354), Soccsksargen (9,572), Calabarzon (12,780) and — the highest thus far — Western Visayas (15,826), which includes the province of Iloilo.
According to Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo, surges like this are to be expected, given that the country is starting to feel the effects of the rainy season. Domingo said dengue cases usually peak from July to September.
Glen Alonsabe, Western Visayas epidemiologist, on Saturday said they expected an increase in dengue cases this year based on the three-year cyclical pattern of infection to the disease.
“But not this early and not this high,” Alonsabe said.
He cited as possible factors the El Niño phenomenon which hit Western Visayas twice this year, as well as the onset of the rainy season. The extreme weather patterns could have hastened and magnified the breeding of mosquitoes, he added.
Slack in prevention measures
Iloilo provincial health officer Grace Trabado said a different strain or a combination of the four dengue virus strains could be prevalent this year.
She said that due to the dry spell, communities could have stored water in uncovered containers where mosquitoes could breed. Trabado also said preventive measures in the communities may have become lax.
“This is a community effort that should be sustained and developed as a way of life because it will not be effective if not all households are involved,” she said.
De Paula agrees that dengue prevention measures have become “slack” as municipal and barangay officials were preoccupied with the midterm election campaign.
“The municipal and barangay officials were busy with the elections and there was a slack in the implementation of our plans,” he said.
When he lost in his reelection bid, De Paula spent his last days in office cleaning up the villages.
On June 25, as his mayoralty was about to end, his daughter, Jasmine Joy was brought to Federico Roman Tirador Sr. Memorial District Hospital in Janiuay after showing flu-like symptoms.
The next day, she was brought to Iloilo Mission Hospital in Iloilo City after it was confirmed that she had dengue.
Jasmine Joy, fondly called “JJ” by her family and friends, underwent multiple blood transfusions due to the drop in her blood platelet.
On July 12, she succumbed to dengue complications at the hospital’s intensive care unit.
JJ, a Grade 6 pupil at Calvario Memorial Christian School in Janiuay, was supposed to turn 11 next month..
“I never expected that the first dengue fatality in our town will be my only child,” De Paula said.
De Paula and his wife, Mary Joy, have been posting photographs and videos of their daughter. One video showed her playing the violin and another showed her singing the National Anthem.
“We love you, my child. Thank you for loving us,” the former mayor said in one of his posts.
De Paula has taken up, as a personal advocacy, the campaign against the spread of the disease.
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