Expressing alarm over the 200 percent increase in dengue fever cases in the province, the Cebu Provincial Board yesterday decided to declare a dengue outbreak in the whole province.
The declaration, however, should not be a cause for panic but should instead be an impetus for towns and cities in the province to take measures that will protect themselves from the deadly mosquito-borne disease, provincial officials led by Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said.
The PB action came just days after the Cebu Provincial Health Office (PHO) also declared a dengue outbreak in the province.
The Department of Health’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Resu), which usually has been considered the authority in determining and declaring a disease outbreak, however, remained mum on the action taken by the province.
Resu-Central Visayas chief Rennan Cimafranca said he would not make any statement on the declaration of the province until he got hold of a copy of the resolution.
PB Member Christopher Baricuatro, who chairs the committee on public health and the author the resolution, clarified that the purpose of his measure was mainly to raise public awareness over the surge of dengue cases in the province.
It was also meant to “encourage the residents to have a massive cleanup of areas identified as breeding grounds (of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes),” Baricuatro said.
Baricuatro said there is a basis to declare a dengue outbreak in the province, as the World Health Organization (WHO) defines an outbreak as the occurrence of cases in excess of what should normally be expected in a defined community, geographical area or season.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Rene Catan, appearing before the PB yesterday, also explained that the surge of dengue cases in the province was enough basis to declare a province-wide dengue outbreak.
He said that as of the date, the PHO has recorded 5,700 dengue cases, with 55 deaths reported.
“There is a rapid increase of number of dengue cases (in Cebu province),” Catan said.
Catan said they first noted the surge in dengue cases in August, with 13 municipalities and cities in the province now belonging to the top 20 places in the Central Visayas which have the highest cases of dengue as of last month.
An earlier figure released by the PHO, which was used as a basis for Baricuatro’s resolution, showed that from January to September this year, 5,505 dengue cases were reported in the province, or an alarming increase of 224 percent cases over the same period last year.
This means a prevalence rate of 114 for every 100,000 population of Cebu province, which, according to Baricuatro, has been the highest rate in the last six year, or since 2010.
Baricuatro said the PHO data likewise revealed that dengue fever has claimed 50 lives from January to September this year, representing a 204 percent increase in fatalities compared to last year.
In 2015, the PHO recorded 2,235 dengue cases and 10 deaths.
The top ten areas in the province that reported the most number of dengue cases this year were Toledo City, Balamban, Carcar City, Liloan, Talisay City, Consolacion, Danao City, San Fernando, Cordova and Naga City, the resolution revealed.
For the whole Cebu Island, however, Cebu City, a city independent from the province, has the most number of cases with 2,037 and 13 deaths.
In the province, PHO records showed that Mandaue City topped the list with 671 cases and 13 deaths. This was followed by Toledo City (549 cases and 4 deaths), Balamban (461 cases with 2 deaths), Lapu-Lapu City (447 cases with 8 deaths), Carcar (376 cases), Liloan (342 cases with 4 deaths), Talisay City (322 cases with 5 deaths), and Consolacion (306 cases with 3 deaths).
Also in the list were Danao City (242 cases with 3 deaths), San Fernando (238 cases with 1 death), Cordova (225 cases with 5 deaths), Naga City (205 cases and 1 death), Minglanilla (200 cases with one death), and Medellin (187 cases with 4 deaths).
Catan said they particularly noted the unusual increase of cases in Balamban, as it is a relatively small town (population 75,000) but already recorded 461 cases.
“It is incumbent upon our office to declare and inform the body that we have an increasing number cases of dengue to such a position that we are now having an outbreak,” Catan told the PB members yesterday.
Baricuatro, for his part, stressed: “With the alarming upsurge of dengue cases, there is a necessity to immediately address and prevent further increase of dengue cases in the province as dengue is best managed by risk reduction.”
But Davide and Catan both said that declaring dengue outbreak is not to cause for panic but only for the public to know that there has been an increase of dengue cases in the province and that they should be cautious.
Cimafranca, in an earlier interview after the PHO declared a dengue outbreak on Oct. 8, said he respected the PHO’s decision to declare an outbreak but noted that it was the first time that a dengue outbreak was declared province-wide.
“Kasagaran barangay level ang atong tan-awon og asa moy pinaka apektado na area (Usually, an outbreak is declared at the barangay level of the most affected areas). I don’t know the reason why they considered it as province wide,” he said.
The last time Resu-7 declared a dengue outbreak was in 2014 in Barangay Buanoy, Balamban.
Dengue fever is caused by the day-biting aedes aegypti mosquito. Its signs and symptoms include high fever, which may last from 2-7 days, joint and muscle and pain behind the eyes, weakness, skin rashes, nose bleeding when fever starts to subside, abdominal pain, vomiting of coffee-colored matter, dark colored stools and difficulty of breathing.
The DOH continues to campaign for eradicating dengue in the country by searching for and destroying mosquito-breeding areas, such as tin cans, jars, bottles, and other items that can collect and hold water; to implement self protection measures that include wearing of long pants and sleeved shirt; and to use mosquito repellent every day.
DOH also advised that it is also important to mobilize the community to actively participate in environmental sanitation activities such as clean up drives and establish dengue brigades in the barangays.
It also encourages school-based programs targeting parents and children in schools to eliminate vector breeding places at home and in the school.
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