DAVAO CITY -- The Department of Health (DOH) declared malaria outbreak in a village in Davao City due to the rising cases of the disease in the area.

In a press conference Thursday, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said local health officials have already declared the outbreak in the village of Gumitan in Marilog District, Davao City due to the 183 confirmed cases in the area.

"It (Marilog) has always been known as an endemic area," Ona said.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

He said that from the period of June 21 to July 12 alone, there were a total of 645 suspected malaria cases, although only 183 have so far been confirmed through blood samples.

The DOH said this is a huge jump considering that no malaria cases were recorded in the area last year.

One death was also recorded due to malaria after a 29-year-old male teacher succumbed in a private hospital.

Ona said the department has already sent a team from the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) to help identify the source, as well as recommend control and preventive measures.

Anti-malarial drugs and medicines have also been sent to the area such as 15 boxes of coartem and five boxes of quinine ampoules.

Ona urged the public to employ mosquito-repellent products as well as invest in mosquito nets in order to avoid the disease.

Marilog District is about 60 kilometers from Davao City and is "essentially" filled with forest trees, which are common breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

Malaria is spread by the Anopheles mosquito. Unlike dengue, malaria is not predominantly found in urban areas. Malaria and dengue are usually not found in the same locations.

Both also share some similar symptoms such as fever, joint pains, occasional nausea, and a couple of others, but the characteristic symptoms of each disease represent the biggest difference.

With its classic rash, the symptoms of dengue fever do not resemble malaria in the slightest. Instead of a rash, malaria is most commonly recognized by its cycles of sudden chills, shaking, and fever.

Meanwhile, the DOH-Davao Region on Thursday warned of a possible increase in the number of dengue cases in the region after its record showed generally increasing cases each week.

DOH information officer Anna Remolar said they recorded a total of 2,607 cases of dengue and 20 deaths in the region as of June 2010 from the data given by 10 sentinel hospital sites, namely: San Pedro Hospital, Davao Doctors Hospital, Brokenshire Hospital, Ricardo Limso Hospital, Medical Mission, Southern Philippines Medical Hospital, Davao del Sur Provincial Hospital, Davao Oriental Provincial Hospital, Compostela Valley Provincial Hospital, and Davao Regional Hospital.

"We don't consider the results given by private, non-sentinel hospitals because their findings often need laboratory verification," Remolar said.

Their records also showed that there are 858 cases in January-June 2008 and 1748 cases in January-June 2009.

"Tumaas na ang cases January of this year pa lang (Cases already increased on January). We gave frequent advisories and now, alert levels are up," Remolar said.

In Davao City, Lingap Para Sa Mahirap (Lingap), the City Government's medical assistance program, is receiving more requests for help with the surge of dengue cases in the city.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said Thursday that more relatives of dengue victims have come to her office asking for assistance.

Patients or any of their companions lined up for interview at the City Mayor's Office, before they are given a stub to claim the medicines at any Murang Gamot-affiliated drug stores or at the Southern Philippines Medical Center previously dubbed Davao Medical Center.

Mayor Duterte said even barangay chiefs are asking for assistance on how to deal with dengue in their respective areas.

The CHO noted the top five areas with the more dengue cases during the first half of the year are Buhangin with 306 cases, Talomo North with 211, Talomo South with 201, Agdao with 110, and Toril with 90 cases.

Duterte also said she would not hesitate to declare the city under state of calamity due to dengue after some consultation.

The Provincial Government of Davao del Sur already declared the province under a state of calamity following a dramatic rise of dengue cases.

DOH has already conducted trainings and seminars in different communities. They gave vector surveillance training (to identify dengue-carrying larvae), Dengue Clinical Management training to hospital practitioners and gave pre-treated curtains to 18 selected public schools. (AMN/Marie Angeli A. Laxa/Jade C. Zaldivar of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)