This article was first published on PhilStar on 26 July 2012
A dengue vaccine has finally been developed and is being readied for commercial release by a private pharmaceutical company. Dengue vaccine, however, is still three years away. In the meantime, the Philippines is seeing a surge in dengue cases, amid reports that a secondary mosquito species can transmit the virus even at night.
The study on the night-biting mosquito is not yet conclusive, the Department of Health has emphasized. But the DOH has announced an increase in dengue cases in the first five months of the year compared to the same period in 2011, with 32,193 cases recorded nationwide as of June 2 – up from 30,989. The patients ranged in age from as young as one month to 90 years, the DOH reported.
Dengue is a problem not only in the Philippines but also in the other tropical countries of Southeast Asia. Two years ago, at a health ministers’ meeting in Singapore, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations declared every June 15 as ASEAN Dengue Day to emphasize the urgency of fighting the potentially fatal illness.
Usually diagnosed and treated too late, dengue has a high mortality rate: as of early June, the DOH had recorded 195 deaths. The high death toll gives urgency to implementing preventive measures, many of which are already well known. Keeping surroundings clean and free of stagnant water is important. In some countries, the distribution of mosquito nets in impoverished areas contributed to bringing down cases of dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases.
There are commercially available insect repellents, although they are beyond the reach of the poor. There are insect-repelling plants that can be used in schools and other public places. Information on dengue symptoms can also help in timely treatment. If not treated early, the illness can worsen into hemorrhagic fever, which can lead to death. Until a dengue vaccine is available, preventive measures are the best way to contain the deadly disease.