Fireracker injuries up but less serious in nature, health execs say
MANILA—While the number of people injured by firecrackers has gone up substantially, health officials have observed that the injuries this time have been less serious than in the previous year.
A preliminary data released by the Department of Health’s National Epidemiology Center on Wednesday showed that the number of New Year-related injuries from December 21, 2013, up to 6 a.m. on January 1, rose by 29 percent from last year’s figure.
The DOH recorded a total of 599 injuries related to the New Year celebrations from 50 hospitals nationwide, of which one was due to firework indigestion and nine from stray bullets.
In a press briefing at the East Avenue Medical Center, Health Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa said that although the number this year was higher, the nature of the injuries were less serious.
As of Jan. 1, DOH officials said they had yet to receive a report about a baby killed by a stray bullet in the Ilocos region.
“I’ve been in the emergency department for 12 years of PGH (Philippine General Hospital) and most of the injuries then were serious. You see hands blown off. But this year, injuries were milder,” Herbosa said.
DOH data showed there were 8 cases of amputations or 1 percent this year compared with last year’s 13 or 3 percent of the total number of injuries. Among the firecrackers that caused amputations were “Super Yolanda,” “Rebentador,” “Bawang,” “Camara,” “Plapla,” and “Super Lolo.”
Of the 599 people injured, 86 sustained eye injuries from lighting firecrackers.
Herbosa attributed the milder injuries to government regulations lowering the gunpowder content of firecrackers sold in the market.
Still looking on the bright side, Herbosa noted that fewer children were injured this time compared with the 2012 when 31 percent of the total number of people injured were children.
According to the DOH, among those who had firework injuries, 81 percent or 479 were males while 24 percent or 143 were children less than 10 years old.
Health officials were also happy that fewer bystanders were injured compared to last year.
Explaining the spike in the number of injuries, Health Undersecretary Janette Garin said the figure was up because the people were made aware about the complications of firecrackers.
“The people have listened to our calls to go to the hospital immediately after sustaining the injury from firecrackers,” Garin said.
Herbosa said the higher number could mean a good thing for the health department since its personnel were able to administer anti-tetanus shots to the firecracker victims.
“Piccolo,” a firecracker intended for children but which has been banned since 2010, remained the leading cause of injury, accounting for 267 cases, almost half of the total number.
But even firecrackers allowed by the government were among those that caused injuries such as “kwitis” (10 percent) five-star (5 percent), and plapla (5 percent).
Herbosa also noted that for the same period, the number of firework-related injuries this year was also higher by 29 percent than the average during the five year period from 2008 to 2012.
Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, head of NEC, clarified that the data culled from 50 hospitals across the country was only preliminary and could still go up in the coming days.
“The police, the Department of Health, the parents still can’t relax in the next days because there could be more people who would be lighting firecrackers or lighting firecrackers as we speak,” Tayag said.
Most of the injuries, 345 cases or 58 percent, happened in the National Capital Region while the other regions with the most number injuries were Region IV-A with 50 cases (8 percent), Region 1 with 35 or (6 percent), Region VIII had 11 ( 2 percent.)
In the National Capital Region, Manila (40 percent), Quezon City (19 percent), Las Piñas (8 percent), Marikina (7 percent), and Caloocan, (5 percent) reported the biggest number of injuries.
Garin said much still has to be done to significantly reduce the number of firecracker injuries.
“There is a need for a concerted effort. It would still be difficult to do so even if we are constantly campaigning against firecrackers since firecrackers are still being sold in the market,” Garin told reporters.
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