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National dengue epidemic declared: 622 dead

06 August 2019


The Philippines is now paying for the controversy that has stopped vaccinations against dengue, amid a controversy that critics called an attempt to discredit the administration of ex-President Benigno S. Aquino III.

A national epidemic was declared today by Department of Health (DOH) today (August 6, 2019) as cases of the mosquito-borne disease increased to 146,062 cases from January to July 20 this year, or double the cases reported in the same period last year, with 622 deaths.

“It is important that a national epidemic be declared in these areas to identify where a localized response is needed and to enable the local government units to use their Quick Response Fund to address the epidemic situation,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

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With the government’s rejection of dengvaxia, DOH is left with nothing more to fight the viral disease than a call for people to help prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

“Starting today, the DOH, together with other government agencies, the LGUs (local government units), the schools, the offices, and communities will conduct the ‘Sabayang 4 o’clock habit’ para dengue out, focusing on search and destroy in mosquito breeding sites,” Duque said in a  press briefing. “This is one of the primary interventions to prevent and control dengue.

Last July 15, the Department of Health had declared a National Dengue Alert after the number of cases reached 115,986 in the first half of the year, nearly double last year’s 62,267, and killed at least 491 people.

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Among regions where epidemics have been declared are MIMAROPA (Region IV-B), Western Visayas (Region VI), Central Visayas (Region VII), and Northern Mindanao (Region X), the DOH said.

DOH is also monitoring the rise of cases in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, CALABARZON, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Cordillera Administrative Region.

In these places, hospital capacities have been exceeded, such as in
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that since dengue is a viral disease with no known vaccine or specific antibiotics, only effective surveillance and preventive measures can be used to reduce cases and deaths.

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These measures exclude the use of Dengvaxia vaccines, which has been denounced by top government lawyer Persida Acosta, who accused the previous administration of President Noynoy Aquino of irregularities in their procurement. The accusation was prompted by a November 2017 global advisory by the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, warning of risks of administering Dengvaxia to “seronegative” people, or those with no history of dengue, saying a small proportion of them might contract severe symptoms of the disease.

This resulted in Sanofi refunding the government P1.16 billion in unused doses of Dengvaxia. Lawmakers earmarked the money as medical assistance for those who had already been administered the medicine.

As this developed, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said: “Congress gave the DOH ample funds to monitor the health condition of children who received Dengvaxia shots. Surely, the department should be able to provide us a detailed report in a future hearing.”
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