LAST Friday, the Department of Health (DOH) launched the 3rd ASEAN Dengue Day in Cebu City as part of its campaign to bring down the number of cases especially in Visayas and Mindanao. I interviewed DOH Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag over my morning radio program in DWIZ 882AM and he told us that dengue cases are on the rise in the Southern part of the Philippines. Nationwide, however, the number of dengue cases from January to June 8 this year has gone down by one percent compared to last year’s figures (42,207 versus 42,663). The biggest improvement is in NCR where reduction of cases to a third was seen (from 9,281, to 3,073). This is no cause to let our guard down, ASec. Tayag said, as the rainy season usually heralds a rise in dengue cases throughout the country.
ASec. Tayag related that during the ASEAN Dengue Day, DOH Secretary Enrique Ona launched the 4 o’clock habit, a year-round campaign that encourages people to look for possible nesting places of mosquitoes and eliminate the larvae to prevent their growth. Dengue, as we all know, is transmitted by a certain species of mosquitoes called Aedis aegypti. These types of mosquitoes breed in areas where there is stagnant water.
Secretary Ona also called on the local chief executives to fulfil their responsibility to their constituents in the fight against dengue by promoting clean surroundings and ensuring there are no areas that could serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Now that classes have begun, ASec. Tayag said that they have already partnered with the Department of Education (DepEd) so that less students can become victims of dengue.
Some schools have already initiated fogging activities even before school started and preparations underway to place traps for mosquitoes inside classrooms. An education campaign to spread awareness and information among students will also be carried out, Asec. Tayag said.
Speaking of the mosquito traps developed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Asec. Tayag said that these are already being produced by a private company after the DOST transferred the technology to them since they have the capacity for mass production.
I also asked ASec. Tayag about research on the herbal medicine tawa-tawa (Euphorbia hirta) which supposedly has curative properties against dengue. ASec. Tayag said that the University of East Ramon Magsaysay (UERM) announced the preliminary results of their study which indicated that there is no harm in using tawa-tawa on dengue fever patients. The DOH will evaluate the study and give recommendations how this can be used in the ongoing fight against dengue. If proven effective in helping patients recover, tawa-tawa’s active ingredient will need to be isolated and the herbal drug will likely be in the conventional form of a pill or capsule, ASec. Tayag said.
An anti-dengue vaccine is also under development by Sanofi Pasteur which Asec. Tayag expects will be available next year or 2015. Clinical trials of the vaccine are being undertaken in Cebu, he said.