On the occasion of the National Dengue Awareness Month, the Department of Health (DOH) along with health experts called for continued vigilance against the vector-borne disease to protect the people, including children, from this public health threat amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The eighth installation of the Health Connect forum, also held in support of the ASEAN Dengue Day, likewise discussed lessons from the global pandemic that can be applied to protect communities from dengue that threatens tropical countries like the Philippines.
DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau Director Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho emphasized the need for continued vigilance noting that dengue infected about 400,000 Filipinos and caused more than 1,000 deaths in 2019. Moreover, while the DOH only recorded 83,335 cases in 2020, Dr. Ho explained that dengue is a cyclical disease which the public cannot be complacent about, emphasizing that an outbreak could come unexpectedly.
“We celebrate our country’s gains in our fight against dengue. However, we have to always put our guard up to protect the people from this threat. Moreover, the country cannot afford another surge of dengue infections so as not to further burden our health system. We encourage communities to practice the DOH 4S strategies to prevent a dengue outbreak and protect our children and their families during these challenging times,” said Dr. Ho.
The DOH 4S strategy stands for “Search and destroying” mosquito-breeding sites such as stagnant waters, employing “Self-protection measures” by wearing clothes that cover our skin or using mosquito repellants, “Seeking early consultation” when starting to feel the symptoms of fever, nausea, or body aches, and “Supporting fogging” in hotspot areas where cases have been increasing for two consecutive weeks.
Dr. Mary Ann Bunyi, President of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDS) supported the DOH, noting that “There is no miracle cure for dengue, but prevention is also better than a cure. That’s why it’s vital that adopt scientifically-proven preventative measures in our collective fight against dengue.” The World Health Organization’s New Global Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control includes 5 pillars of focus to reduce the global burden of the disease.
University of the Philippines (UP) Medical Anthropologist Dr. Gideon Lasco then highlighted the need for a whole-of-society approach to address dengue. “As we know, health is much broader than COVID, and we have to really concern ourselves with all of the illnesses that we have in the Philippines; from NCDs or non-communicable diseases to infectious diseases like dengue.” Dr. Lasco underscored.
The forum, entitled “Dengue Awareness: How to Protect Ourselves from the Next Dengue Epidemic,” was organized by Philippine Medical Association (PMA), Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), and the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). The forum was moderated by Dr. Eric Tayag, chairperson of the PFV Committee on Ethics.
“We have come a long way in our fight against dengue. The implementation of global and national strategies against this public health threat will be crucial if we were to protect vulnerable populations and reverse any sudden rise in dengue cases in the country,” said PMA President Dr. Benito Atienza.
“While it is crucial for us to focus on containing the current pandemic, we also have to take urgent and collective actions to stave off any disease outbreaks. Dengue continues to threaten Filipinos, especially our children. Promising innovations and best practices exist, and we must maximize them to win the battle against dengue,” said PFV Executive Director Dr. Lulu Bravo.
“Dengue has caused immense human suffering for individuals and families, and has also resulted in huge health and economic burden for the country. PHAP and our Members support the Department of Health in this multi-stakeholder call to protect people, communities and the country through lessons learned and best practices in this current pandemic,” said Mr. Teodoro Padilla, executive director of PHAP.