A DOH update released 3 days ago revealed that from January 1 to August 3 this year, the figure you see on the left is the number of Dengue cases reported in the country. The real figure might be higher if we are to take into account unreported cases.
A TOTAL 12,308 cases of dengue fever, including 159 deaths, have been reported from January 1 to August 3, according to a Department of Health update released on Tuesday.
The figures represented a 15-percent rise in the number of dengue infections registered during the same period last year.
Metro Manila came second with 25 deaths out of 1,853 cases.
[ INQ7.net, Aug 09 2005 ]
If the US has the West Nile virus problem, the Philippines has the Dengue virus problem in this season of rain and typhoons where pools of stagnant water harboring mosquito larvae can be seen in almost every place.
The 12,308 figure, while significant, is still below the more than 30,000 cases recorded in the 1998 Dengue epidemic. Neighbor countries, like Indonesia, have far worse figures than ours. Recently, there are also more reported dengue cases in Vietnam.
But you should take care not to be bitten by mosquitoes this time of year. Some pointers you should know about Dengue:
Dengue fever is caused by a virus belonging to the genus Flavivirus. It is a self-limiting disease. It is not necessary to give antibiotics. Most patients self-medicate themselves or their febrile children thinking it can help.
The terms Dengue Fever (DF) and Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF) are used interchangeably.
Classic dengue fever (DF) has the following manifestations: sudden fever, headache, pain in the back of the eyes, vomiting, maculopapular rash, weakness, loss of appetite, and swollen lymph nodes. Fever usually lasts for a week, but the whole recovery period may last for another 2 weeks.
Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF), on the other hand, begins like DF, but is diagnosed using the 4 WHO criteria: fever, hemorrhagic manifestations --- like hemoconcentration (decrease of the fluid content of the blood, with resulting increase in its concentration), low platelet count, and a positive tourniquet test, circulatory failure seen as having low total protein values and fluid accumulation in some organs, and liver enlargement.
There is another dengue variant called Dengue Shock Syndrome (DSS) which is mainly untreated DHF.
DSS is diagnosed using the 4 criteria used for DHF, and presence of symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, and restlessness. Evidence of circulatory failure becomes apparent with rapid, weak pulses, cold clammy skin, and an altered mental status.
You should also remember that the Dengue virus has four (4) closely related but distinct serotypes: DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3, and DEN-4. This means that if you get infected this year with DEN-1, for example, you get immunity from this serotype. BUT you can get Dengue fever again next year if the mosquito that bites you has any of the 3 other serotypes which you haven't been infected with. Unfortunate, but true. In any given population, lack of immunity to the virus' serotypes contributes to increasing infection rates.
So, how do you solve a problem like Dengue?
There is no Dengue vaccine available....yet. Treatment has always been supportive. This means that hospitalization will see to it that you are given enough fluids to replace whatever was lost should you get DHF or DSS where there is plasma leakage. Meanwhile, it is your body's immunity which will tide you over.
On the preventive side, there are a number of things that can be done. Since you cannot have Dengue without getting bitten by an Aedes aegypti, or an Aedes albopictus mosquito, the one thing you should do is to avoid getting bitten. You must always see to it that whenever possible, you should apply insect repellants, and make sure that there is no stagnant pool of water lying around your house, especially in this time of the year when it rains so often.
The Philippines is an endemic area for Dengue Fever. Not a year will pass that we won't get any infection. It's a fact that existed for more than 50 years already so we have to deal with it on a yearly basis.
Sanitation and refuse control should also be enforced to make sure that mosquito infestation is kept at a minimum or eliminated.
And how about defogging? I invite you to read this interesting perspective of a biologist who visits Cebu City twice a year. Cebu City is a known hot spot for Dengue Fever.
More useful information on Dengue Fever here, here, and here.