DOH starts probe of deaths of 2 kids in Laguna town
LOS BAÑOS, Laguna — The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday started looking into the deaths of two children in Los Baños town in Laguna province, amid a growing concern that they succumbed to a mosquito-borne disease.
The children, a 9-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, died on June 18 and 22, respectively, after being confined in different hospitals here. Both went to the same school, as Grades 4 and 1, although one of them was a resident of the adjacent town of Bay.
Bobbie Roca, coordinator of the DOH Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), said the children suffered from fever and abdominal pains.
“One of them was also distressed and had difficulty breathing,” Roca said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
None of the children showed skin rashes.
Their deaths puzzled parents and local health officials.
In a statement on June 24, the municipal health office said the children tested negative for dengue and Japanese encephalitis, both mosquito-borne illnesses.
It, however, did not say what caused their deaths.
A statement that the school sent on Tuesday also did not say what caused the children’s deaths. But school officials said they regularly conducted fumigation, the most recent of which was on June 4.
‘Fear and panic’
Asked what prompted the deployment of a DOH team to this town, Roca said: “Fear and panic. We wanted to [know] what really [caused] their disease.”
The Inquirer on Monday observed several parents taking their children to clinics for immunization shots. In one hospital here, vaccines against Japanese encephalitis, however, come in limited stocks.
Dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses are transmitted through the bite of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Japanese encephalitis, on other hand, is spread by culex mosquito.
Roca said abdominal pains and fever were among the common symptoms of Japanese encephalitis, which causes a part of the brain to swell that leads to a person having seizures.
“We don’t call [Japanese encephalitis] rare because it is endemic to the Philippines, like dengue,” he said.
The number of cases, however, is relatively lower than dengue, he said.
In Albay province, at least 64 villagers fell ill of chikungunya that struck eight villages in Guinobatan town, the Provincial Health Office (PHO) said on Tuesday.
A PHO team was sent to Guinobatan to check reports by the municipal health office that cases of the mosquito-borne disease were detected in the villages of Poblacion with 32 patients, Muladbukad Pequinia with 26 and the villages of Iawod, San Francisco, Malabnig, Banao, Masarawag and Maninila with one patient each, said Dr. Antonio Loduvice, acting provincial health officer.
Dr. Joanna Limos, Guinobatan health officer, said patients had recurring fever, skin rashes and joint pains, which were clinical symptoms of chikungunya.
The local health office reported that dengue-like symptoms were observed in patients in the town starting April but tests confirmed that these were cases of chikungunya. —Maricar Cinco and Mar Arguelles
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.