Health and Fitness

Dengue is Now a National Epidemic; Why It Will Be Tough to Eradicate It Forever

Fighting dengue could also entail changing your lifestyle.

The Department of Health has declared a national dengue epidemic, especially after the July figures of dengue cases have come in: 146,000 cases were recorded in seven regions throughout Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The number has crossed the epidemic threshold. The last time the Philippines declared a dengue epidemic was not so long ago. In 2016, the government recorded 101,401 dengue cases. So yes, the numbers for 2019 are pretty serious, it is no wonder that the government is now pushing for the activation of the controversial Dengvaxia vaccines.

Despite battling the disease for many decades, we have come nowhere close to eliminating it. Here are several reasons why it will be very difficult to eradicate dengue forever.

1| Global Warming Will Help Spread Dengue

Climate-sensitive diseases like dengue are expected to spread more aggressively because of climate change or global warming. Dengue-carrying mosquitos usually thrive in tropical climates where the climate is warm with high humidity.

Mosquitoes are not the sources of dengue, they are only its vectors. Vectors are animals that carry disease and pass them to other animals. A mosquito is an example of a vector. According to the World Health Organization, hotter climates will cause mosquitoes to multiply and spread more rapidly, increasing the likelihood that dengue will also spread.

2| Rainfall Provides Millions of Breeding Grounds for Mosquitos

Global warming is expected to bring more rainfall to the Philippines, with storms like Ondoy becoming more common as the oceans become warmer. According to the World Health Organization, rains create breeding grounds for mosquitos by filling discarded containers, plastic surfaces, cans, tires, and even plants with stagnant water where mosquito larvae grow.


But according to the same report, the dry season also creates a perfect environment for mosquitos when slum dwellers store more water. “A regular supply of drinking water would limit the need to store water around the household and thereby reduce vector density,” said the report.

3| Anti-vaccine Movements Could Derail Dengue Resistance

The worst thing to do when you are faced with recurring epidemics is to politicize its cure for personal interests. In the Philippines, the use of dengue vaccine became highly controversial in 2017, when reports about deaths caused by the vaccine went national.

One result of the reportage was parents refusing to vaccinate their children, not only for dengue, but also for various diseases such as measles. Aside from government, there are also people who actively oppose vaccination. Anti-vaxxers are people who oppose vaccination because they believe that vaccines cause various brain disorders and autism.

4| Dengue Itself Has No Cure

There is no cure for dengue, like there is no drug that can make its symptoms go away. If someone contracts dengue, the only way to help him recover is to manage the symptoms well and monitor him regularly, especially his blood platelet count several times a day. The most important thing is to keep the platelets up. Dengue can be treated at home, but for more serious cases when the blood platelet count is too low and when there is bleeding, a patient has to be confined in a hospital.

5| Eradicating Dengue Entails a Change of Lifestyle

Eliminating dengue is not like eliminating other diseases like polio, which was done through massive vaccination programs worldwide. Since dengue is a vector-borne disease, which means the virus that causes dengue is carried by an animal and transferred to humans, eliminating it entails eliminating the environments in which the vector (mosquito) thrives. Usually, this entails more than receiving a shot of dengue vaccine. It entails a drastic change of lifestyle because it requires people to not only clean their surroundings, but keep it clean all the time. It also discourages compact housing areas where diseases spread rapidly, so a lot of expenditure is needed not only in money but also in political capital.

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Changing lifestyles is not so easy, especially for those afflicted with poverty. Although there are regular government-sponsored vaccination programs for various diseases, a number of Filipino children still miss the free vaccines because of poverty: Their parents are too busy working odd jobs to take them to the health center. According to the Department of Health, parents finding time to get their children vaccinated is the leading challenge to national immunization programs, which is why some vaccination programs like Dengvaxia were integrated with the public school systems.

Symptoms of Dengue

The early symptoms of dengue will manifest early. These symptoms include high fever (40 degrees Celsius), muscle pain, body pain, joint pain, rashes, headache, nausea, and pain behind the eyes. Not all these symptoms may manifest.

In severe cases, symptoms of dengue may include fatigue, severe abdominal pain, blood in stool, vomit, or urine, persistent vomiting, bleeding gums, difficulty breathing, and having cold or clammy skin.

Treatment for Dengue

As mentioned earlier, there is no cure for dengue. However, you can manage it depending on how severe the symptoms are. For the early symptoms of dengue, you may drink paracetamol. Avoid taking ibuprofen, mefenamic acid, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs because these can promote internal bleeding. Hydrate frequently, especially if you have a fever and are vomiting.

Fever and vomiting will cost the body a lot of fluids that you need to replenish regularly. For severe cases of dengue, intravenous fluid supplementation and blood transfusion may be necessary. Hospitalization may be necessary.


How to Prevent Dengue

The 4S strategy is an effective way of fighting dengue in the community, if done regularly.

Search and Destroy: Once a week, search for possible areas where mosquitoes can lay eggs, then eliminate them. These can be plastic containers, cans, lids, old tires, potted plants that have gathered water, and more.

Self-protection: Apply mosquito repellent products on your exposed skin. Mosquitos are active at any time of the day.

Seek Early Consultation: If you feel like you have any symptoms of dengue, do not hesitate to have yourself checked by a doctor or go to a hospital, especially if any one of the symptoms mentioned persist for more than two days.

Support Fogging: You can support the fogging of canals, drainages, vacant lots, and other areas where mosquitos can propagate.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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