THE number of dengue fever cases in the country has grown to nearly 36,000 in the first five months of this year, but lower than the same period last year, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said Thursday.

In a statement for the commemoration of Asean Dengue Day, Ubial said that from January 1 to May 20 the DOH has recorded 35,973 dengue cases.

The number, she said, is actually 31.8 percent lower compared to the 52,780 cases recorded during the same time period last year.

"There is a decreasing trend of reported dengue cases to the Epidemiology Bureau," said Ubial.

The DOH Epidemiology Bureau has reported 207 dengue deaths so far.

Majority of the dengue cases were in Central Visayas (15.5 percent), Central Luzon (13 percent), National Capital Region (12.2 percent), Calabarzon (11.4 percent) and Soccsksargen (11.1 percent).

The report also showed that most (21.5 percent) of the cases belongs to the five to nine years old age group.

Meanwhile, the health chief clarified that expanded dengue immunization program in Cebu will be community-based, and not school-based like those in Metro Manila, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon.

"The vaccination will be done in health centers but still the same target age group, which are Grade 4 public school pupils aged nine years old," said the DOH head.

She explained that the change in venue was prompted by the absence of a formal agreement with the Department of Education (DepEd) for the program's expansion in Cebu.

"I think it's because of the training, and of the lack of preparation, and we respect that," said Ubial.

The health department earlier announced that the dengue vaccination program will be expanded to Cebu.

This means that the program will no longer just be limited anymore to Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.

This was after the dengue immunization program in the three regions left some 500,000 unused doses.

Ubial said the unused dosages will the only ones to be used and that they will not increase the supply any further.

"We are not making any additional procurement for this. We are just trying to use the remaining vaccines, which will expire by August 2018," said Ubial. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)