(TELESUR) – The Philippines is getting hit hard by the increase in dengue hitting many parts of the tropical world this year as the Department of Health (DOH) announced this week it has registered 167,607 cases of the mosquito-transmitted disease since January alone. Some 720 residents have died during the same time frame.
Last week, the government declared a national epidemic after there was a 98 percent increase in cases between January and July 2018 and the same months this year. Two hundred of the deaths came in the month of July alone.
Dengue causes flu-like symptoms, including headaches, fever, muscle and joint pains initially. If not treated the disease can bring on internal bleeding and sometimes death. Millions of people are infected each year worldwide, of which 12,500 people die, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Seven of the 17 Philippine regions have been given epidemic status so that the administration can focus its efforts and energies on getting the disease under control, says the secretary of health.
“It is important that a national epidemic be declared in these areas to identify where a localized response is needed, and to enable the local government units to use their Quick Response Fund to address the epidemic situation,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque in a statement.
The regions declared as epidemic sites are: Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao. These regions are home to more than 40 million people, or 40 percent of nation’s population.
During a press conference last week, Duque said the country is registering some 5,100 cases per week, on average. “This is really staggering. This is going to be a record number,” added the high-ranking health official.
Public health officials say they have been working for months to prevent the spread of the viral infection, sending hundreds of doctors and nurses to provincial and rural hospitals and clinics and providing extra emergency funding to the most affected areas.
In 2016, the Philippines was the first Asian country to approve and use Dengvaxia, the world’s first and only licensed dengue vaccine made by the French pharmaceutical company, Sanofi Pateur.
Some 800,000 students were given the vaccine as part of school-based government immunization program, but was suspended the following year after it was found to negatively affect non-infected patients.
Malaysia has also seen a rise in dengue deaths this year, with 113 mortalities between January and August 3, compared to 70 cases in the same period last year, its health ministry announced last Saturday. The nation’s officials also said the total of dengue cases has doubled in the first nine months of 2019 over the corresponding period last year.
According to Reuters there has been a sharp increase of cases and deaths in 2019, especially in Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.