DAVAO CITY -- After six children died in the first two weeks of this month, the number of deaths due to dengue in this city since January 2010 rose to 30.

"There was one death in January, six in February, five in March, two in April, seven in May, three in June, and six from July 1 to 12," said Dr. Jo Anne Lobo of Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) Pedia Infectious Disease department.

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Based on the records released by the pediatric department of the SPMC, formerly the Davao Medical Center, the six children who died of dengue range from five to 12 years old.

Lobo said that of the total 2,389 cases they have recorded this year, 1,640 of the patients are children.

"Our record on dengue was highest so far in June, but we expect there will be more in July. In January, we recorded 194 cases, 177 in February, 171 in March, 146 in April, 226 in May, 405 in June, and for July 1-12 there were already 321 dengue cases among children," Lobo said in Friday's Kapihan sa PIA media forum.

Department of Health (DOH)-Davao Regional Information Division Chief Ana Remolar said the female mosquito is attracted to a host by scent (including CO2), moisture, temperature, color, most especially movement, thus kids are more vulnerable to mosquito bites.

"Female mosquitoes can detect a host to feed on at a distance of up to 40 yards. Dengue is a sub-tropical virus that is passed directly from one human to the next. Other than dengue, the mosquitoes can also carry with them other diseases such as malaria, a parasitic protozoan that infects the blood cells of humans and is transmitted from human to human by Anopheles mosquitoes. In tropical areas, a closely related parasite produces human elephantiasis, a debilitating mosquito-borne affliction that results in grossly swollen arms, legs, and genitals," she said.

Remolar said the agency noted the number of dengue cases increased by almost 50 percent this year as compared to last year.

Notably, SPMC has a higher record of dengue cases than the regional office of the DOH as it caters to patients who are from other regions.

Based on their January to June data, Remolar said there were 2,607 cases recorded from the region's main hospitals, a rise of 49 percent from the 1,748 dengue cases recorded in 2009.

On the rate of deaths from dengue, the DOH recorded 20 deaths this year as compared to last year's 17, Remolar said.

Remolar said that for the morbidity from January to June, there are 1,792 from Davao City, 163 from Davao del Sur, 321 from Davao del Norte, 229 from Davao Oriental, and 102 from Compostela Valley. In 2009, there were 1,748 cases during the same period.

For mortality for this year, she said there were six from Davao City, five from Davao del Sur, six in Davao del Norte, two in Davao Oriental, and one in Compostela Valley.

Remolar said although the data they have gathered surpassed the alert level, this is not enough to declare dengue as an epidemic in the region.

"Even in January we have surpassed out alert level. The function of our Resu or the regional epidemiology surveillance unit is to report weekly the situation on the disease, then they present these through graphs. As it showed even in January we have surpassed our alert level that's why even before we have intensified our campaign against dengue. An alert level is lower than the epidemic threshold. Although the weekly data sometimes hit the epidemic threshold we still cannot declare this an epidemic because hindi gaano ka-consistent and hindi present at all areas," Remolar added.

Recently, the Provincial Health Office (PHO) declared Davao del Sur under state of calamity due to "dengue epidemic," after the alarming rise of dengue cases in the province from the month of January up to present.

Provincial Information Officer Nilda Aniñon said that from January to June 30, there was a record of 12 deaths. On July 7, this rose to 14 as two more died in Digos City and Bansalan.

The PHO recorded an alarming number of 600 residents already afflicted with the disease and admitted to various hospitals in the province. Aniñon said majority of them are in Digos City with 352 cases.

In Davao del Sur Provincial Hospital alone, more than 10 patients were diagnosed to have dengue. In 2009, a total of 246 dengue patients were recorded in Davao del Sur with only two deaths. (Jade C. Zaldivar of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)