By Rommel F. Lopez

Health Secretary Francisco Duque (Photo from PIA)

A national dengue alert has been raised amid the rapid increase in the number of dengue infection cases in several regions.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said dengue infection cases nationwide from January to June this year have reached 106,630, or 85 percent higher compared with the same period last year (57,564).

The Health Chief disclosed that clustering of cases must be identified by the Department of Health (DOH) regional office as a basis for declaring a localized epidemic at the barangay (village) level.

Regions that have recorded infection cases surpassing the epidemic threshold are: Western Visayas (13,164), Calabarzon (11,474), Central Visayas (9,199), Soccsksargen (9,107), and Northern Mindanao (8,739).

Duque said the increase in cases this year was “expected” as “dengue cases have been observed to peak every 3-4 years.”  The last time a dengue spike happened in 2016.  Duque said that early detection and proper case management could prevent deaths.

Regions being monitored after having exceeded the alert threshold are: Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera Administrative Region.

The Health department said dengue is a viral disease with no known vaccine or specific antibiotics. Signs and symptoms of the disease are severe headache, pain behind the eyes, severe joint and muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and skin rashes.

“Dengue is preventable through the 4S strategy and early detection. Do the 4S and know its signs and symptoms,” Duque said.

The 4S strategy means: “search” and destroy mosquito breeding places, “self-protective measures” like wearing long sleeves and use of insect repellent, “seek early consultation” on the first signs and symptoms of the disease, and “say yes to fogging” if there is an impending outbreak.

Duque also said effective surveillance of areas with clustering of cases could also help in reducing cases and deaths.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chairwoman of the Senate health committee, appealed for calm and said all relevant agencies, local government units, and non-government organizations should “work closely with the DOH towards the implementation of effective anti-dengue programs at the grassroots level.”