ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The City Health Office raised Saturday the alarm status of dengue hemorrhagic fever in this city to "very high alert level" due to the soaring cases.

"We are declaring a very high alert level," said City Health Officer Rodel Agbulos, adding that the number of registered cases has not reached the outbreak level as of yet.

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Agbulos said the number of dengue fever cases in the city has doubled the last two months and that fatalities for the first six months of the year have reached nine.

He said 71 new cases of dengue were registered in the first week of July alone.

Based on the record, the month of May this year registered a total of 150 cases, while over 300 cases were recorded in June.

The village of Campo Islam registered the most number of dengue cases since the first month of this year, Agbulos said.

In 2009, he said there were eight fatalities reported for the whole year.

With the high registered cases, the health officer also earnestly reminded all residents to take the necessary precautionary measures to help eliminate the breeding of the killer mosquitoes.

"That is why we are calling on every resident of the city to please do your share of helping prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne disease," he said.

Cleanliness in the surroundings and sanitation are the most effective and no-cost prescriptions to dengue fever, Agbulos added.

For personal protection, Agbulos advised the public to wear long pants and long sleeves, as well as use mosquito repellant sprays that contain N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide when visiting places where dengue is endemic.

Limiting exposure to mosquitoes by avoiding standing water and staying indoors two hours after sunrise and before sunset will help, he said.

As this developed, Mayor Celso Lobregat has directed Agbulos to intensify anew the information drive on the prevention of dengue cases and mobilize all resources to help ensure that the disease will not reach its outbreak level.

Dengue fever is a disease caused by a family of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes.

It is an acute illness of sudden onset that usually follows a benign course with headache, fever, exhaustion, severe joint and muscle pain, swollen glands and rash.

The presence of fever, rash, and headache and other pains is particularly characteristic of dengue.

The city experienced an outbreak of dengue fever in 2007; hence, Agbulos warned that if nothing will be done, the present situation might reach the same level as three years ago.

"We don't want this thing to happen that is why we are appealing to village officials and all residents to please do everything possible to help eliminate the dengue-carrier mosquitoes," he said.

He added the Aedes aegypti mosquito is a daytime biter with peak periods of biting around sunrise and sunset.

It may bite at any time of the day and is often hidden inside homes or other dwellings, especially in urban areas, Agbulos said.

Medical records say the prevention of dengue requires control or eradication of the mosquitoes carrying the virus that causes dengue.

In nations plagued by dengue fever, people are urged to empty stagnant water from old tires, trash cans, and flower pots.

Governmental initiatives to decrease mosquitoes also help to keep the disease in check but have been poorly effective.

Recently, the Provincial Government of Davao del Sur placed the province under a state of calamity following the dengue epidemic in the province.

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.

Also in Davao City, dengue deaths since January rose to 30 after six children died in the first two weeks of this month. (Bong Garcia/Sunnex)