When will dengue be prevented?

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Sunday, July 20, 2014


WHEN will that dengue vaccine be available in the Philippines?

I ask this because the past few days have been rough for my family in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental in northern Mindanao, Philippines and for me here in Charlotte, North Carolina in the US.

You see my granddaughter Susane Lorette Palmes is in the hospital after she experienced high fever and the results of her complete blood count (CBC) test showed that her platelet was low. The doctor's diagnosis – she had dengue.

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Based on my online research, dengue is the leading cause of childhood hospitalizations in the Philippines. In Sept. 2011, the disease caused 285 deaths of children between one and nine years of age. Hospital costs drain the pockets of the family, not to mention the anxiety which hangs over their heads like the proverbial Damocles sword.

Stable condition

I chose to keep quiet while Susane's mother flew from Charlotte to Cagayan de Oro. We decided not to inform her that her eight-year-old little Susie (she is named after me) was at the intensive care unit at Sabal Hospital. On the fourth day after the fever subsided, Susane's seizures started and the doctors discovered that infection set in on the part of the brain, they call the encephalities.

Susane is now in stable condition and I thank the Lord for all the prayers our family received from all over the world. I would like to thank Mary Grace Gaither and Jesette Kelly for their prayers, which of course would be the next topic I'd talk about.

In these difficult times only faith as big as a mulberry tree can assuage one's anxieties and fears. Let me talk about dengue; it's an illness caused by the bite of a mosquito which causes high fever and low platelet count, among other symptoms.

These dengue-carrying mosquitoes are becoming bolder and brazen in my hometown of Tagoloan. In my mind's eye, I can see them laughing at the so-called “4 o' clock habit” program of the government that consists of spraying chemicals on breeding grounds for dengue, which usually are those with stagnant water in them.

Top priority

While cleaning one's surroundings helps, you can't do anything about the other homes closer to you whose occupants may not be so concerned about cleaning their own backyard. Mosquitoes fly anywhere they want to go. If there's a war on dengue, the mosquitoes appear to be winning and the humans are caught flatfooted.

Eliminating dengue should be a top priority alongside the government's campaign against corruption and it's not political because we are fighting mosquitoes. In the course of my media work in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental in northern Mindanao, Philippines, I knew how treacherous this illness is.

Quite a few succumbed and until now I am appalled that no vaccination or immunization is being discovered by our authorities.

Research

I'll focus on on the epidemiology of dengue in children, the present surveillance systems and the Philippine government's efforts to stop these pernicious dengue-carrying mosquitoes. The introduction of a vaccine will be essential to control the spread of virus that can harm and kill both children and adults.

We heard a vaccine could be available in 2015, but I‘ve heard that 10 years ago.

I wrote about my grandson Christian Mejorada who also contracted dengue. By the way both Susane and Christian are students of St. Mary’s Academy of Tagoloan town and there've been reports that a number of students also contracted dengue.

It has been said that “tawa-tawa”, a type of herb known in India as Euphorbia hirta, helped many in curing or at least slowing down dengue. In fact, my family followed this and we also tried “male” papaya leaves chopped finely as well as apple and durian.

I've read somewhere there was research made on this but I just assumed that it was discontinued due to inadequate finding, which means nobody is pushing for this. Vaccine Statistics show that dengue can be fatal when left untreated.

My question is how come if “tawa-tawa” and the other plants and fruits I mentioned can help cure dengue, then why is the Department of Health or the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) not prioritizing research on this?

Why are we wasting government money for other projects that are only exploited by politicians and elective public officials for self-promotion? Why not dedicate public funds to find a vaccine or a cure for dengue? How many years must we wait before the vaccine and treatment become available in the Philippines?

In the meantime, I suggest that a dialogue be held between the parents and the administrators of St. Mary's Academy with the help of Tagoloan town officials so that ways and means can be implemented to eradicate these dengue-carrying mosquitoes so the children can be spared from this deadly dengue virus.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 20, 2014.

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