ZAMBOANGA CITY -- A number of schoolchildren from different areas in Zamboanga Peninsula were hospitalized after taking a deworming tablet administered to them in line with the National Deworming Day on Wednesday, July 29.
The National Deworming Day is a joint project of the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Education (DepEd) that aims to save children from parasitic intestinal worms. It targets to deworm 16 million schoolchildren nationwide, making it the "largest national deworming program in the world," according to World Health Organization representative to the Philippines Dr. Julie Hall.
But Dr. Ruby Constantino, DOH-Zamboanga Peninsula assistant director, said that based on initial report Wednesday afternoon, 24 schoolchildren were admitted in hospitals in the region due to "adverse effect" of the deworming tablet.
About 204 others were treated as out-patients and were sent home, he added.
Constantino said that six of the 24 schoolchildren admitted are from the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, 13 in Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur and five in Zamboanga del Norte.
DOH officials said the number of patients may increase as reports continue to come from the different parts of the region. As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, about 1,000 children who took the deworming tablet were reportedly rushed to hospitals.
Constantino said the out-patients were from the following areas: Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, 20; Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur, 55; Piñan, Zamboanga del Norte, 69; and, Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte, 60.
Zamboanga Sibugay Governor Wilter Palma said the schoolchildren vomited and suffered stomachache after taking the tablet.
Palma lamented that there was lack of information dissemination on the part of DOH, particularly on how to deal with various reactions to the medicine.
Constantino said it is highly possible that the children who suffered stomachache and vomited did not eat breakfast when they went to school.
The National Deworming Day targets public school pupils from kindergarten to Grade 6, or children aged 5 to 12, said DOH Secretary Janette Garin.
DOH Undersecretary Vicente Belizario said they are looking at holding the activity twice a year, as deworming will not make children immune from parasitic worms.
At present, the DOH said about 66 percent of schoolchildren have soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH) inside their bodies.
Garin said such figure is not really surprising since hookworms are endemic in the country.
“Hookworms are actually endemic in the entire Philippines. Lahat po kasi nasa soil siya,” she said.
Belizario said schoolchildren with worms are prone to problems in their health and nutrition, as well as possible effects in their performances in school.
Intestinal worms can cause poor physical growth, poor intellectual development and impaired cognitive functions in children. (With HDT/Sunnex)