DOH to Bicol hospitals: Reactivate dengue ‘fast lanes’

LEGAZPI CITY—The regional health office for Bicol based here has directed all government hospitals and health sentinel units across the region to reactivate their “fast lanes” that would facilitate immediate management and diagnosis of dengue cases.

The directive was issued this week by Department of Health (DOH) Regional Director Gloria Balboa amid the seasonal rainy days threat of resurgence of the mosquito-borne killer disease sets in over the region.

Dengue “fast lanes” remain necessary even as all necessary measures primarily leading to vector control to prevent the disease’s resurgence and spread in local communities are already being undertaken, Balboa on Thursday said.

First among Bicol’s six provinces to come up with reports on suspected dengue cases was the island of Catanduanes wherein its Provincial Health Office (PHO) as of last Aug. 30 recorded a total of 458 cases -- with the capital town of Virac accounting for 375 monitored from at least 15 barangays.

On receiving the first report of dengue resurgence in Catanduanes as early Aug. 2, which listed a total of 162 suspected cases, Balboa said she immediately sent a team from the Regional Epidemiological Surveillance Unit (RESU) to conduct entomological surveys.

Such surveys determined the extent of the presence of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in particular areas where search-and-destroy operations against its breeding grounds have been initiated through the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) organized by Rural Health Units (RHUs) and the community.

Following its deployment, Balboa said, the RESU reported that at least 41 percent of all households surveyed in Virac barangays considered as hotspots yielded dengue virus- carrying mosquitoes and Aedes larva.

Breeding sites were discovered from salvaged used tires, empty bottles, drums, tin cans and coconut shells around surveyed areas — including the compound of the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EMBC), the largest government health facility in the province based in Virac.

Aside from coordinating with the PHO, RHUs and local hospitals, the RESU team also provided anti-mosquito paraphernalia as well as on-site training of RHU medical technologists in the conduct of entomological survey.

The team also advised the public to practice Aksyon Barangay Kontra Dengue (ABKD), especially by searching for and destroying mosquito breeding places apart from prompt referral and timely reporting of cases.

The RESU team also tasked RHUs to conduct entomologic surveillance every other week until such time that incidence of vector mosquitoes has decreased in the surveyed areas while barangay health workers were oriented on the monthly collection of mosquito larva and pupa for vector surveillance, according to Balboa.

Public hospitals in the island were also placed under a “Code White,” an alert advisory for situations with potential for mass casualty so that medicines, health supplies, equipment and facilities are set ready 24/7 and health personnel, including those based in the regional office, are placed on standby for fast and well-coordinated actions.

Under Code White, medicines and supplies are reviewed and increased to meet instant requirements.

These are made available and not required to be purchased by patients.

Following these interventions, Balboa said, Catanduanes PHO chief Dr. Hazel Palmes over the week reported that the number of dengue cases in the province has significantly dropped to only 11 hospital admissions as of the first week of this month.

Nonetheless, the regional health director said dengue “fast lanes” should be maintained by public health facilities in anticipation of possible cases, especially that the rainy season has already set in across the region.

“We are not letting our guard loose,” she said, recalling that dengue plagued Bicol with an alarming surge in number of cases last year.

During the first two months of 2013 alone, Balboa recalled that at least 522 dengue cases were reported by the six PHOs in the region with Albay accounting for 308 cases; Camarines Sur, 92; Catanduanes, 68; Sorsogon, 27; Masbate, 23; and Camarines Norte, four cases.

One dengue death involving a six-year old girl from Tabaco City, Albay, was reported last year, Balboa added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says dengue, whose global prevalence has grown dramatically in recent decades -- with the countries in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific the most seriously affected, is a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children.

WHO said some 2,500 million people — two-fifths of the world’s population — are now at risk from dengue estimated to be behind 50 million infections every year, a figure that may continue to balloon to an unimaginable level.

Balboa said the transmission of the mosquito-borne virus is no longer a mystery as the disease and its lethal complication, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is caused by one of four closely related viruses.

It is transmitted by the mosquito Aedes aegypti, a day-biting mosquito which lays its eggs in both clear and stagnant water.

These small mosquitoes, according to Balboa, attack anyone — young and old, rich and poor, male and female — and as the rainy season sets in, everyone is faced with the responsibility of bringing dengue under control.

“For one, no one knows which among the pesky insects flying around bears the disease. But one lethal bite enables the virus to enter the bloodstream and what follows is a struggle between life and death,” she added. (PNA)

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