LEGAZPI CITY -- The Department of Health in Bicol has intensified its household and school-based deworming campaign to curb the high incidence of intestinal worm infection covering 2.5 million children in the region.

The DOH data indicate that six out 10 children or 67 percent of children aged one to 18 years old are infected with intestinal worms, said Francia Genorga, DOH Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis coordinator.

In an interview Wednesday, she said Bicol has the highest level of Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis (STH) infection cases in the country with 67.4 percent based on the 2013-2015 STH infection study.

Other regions with high prevalence of intestinal worms were Regions 7 (Central Visayas, 55 percent); 4-B (Mimaropa, 40 percent); Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (37 percent); 3 (Central Luzon, 32 percent); 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula, 27 percent); Caraga (22 percent); and National Capital Region (21 percent).

Meanwhile, the Cordillera Autonomous Region had the lowest prevalence rate with only 7 percent.

Genorga said a 30-percent prevalence rate is the acceptable standard based on a World Health Organization (WHO) study.

“The rising intestinal worm infection incidence is now alarming as this can affect the children’s growth and health condition,” she said.

Genorga noted that the 2003 prevalence study showed that nine out of 10 children or 93 percent had intestinal worms, but this remarkably improved in 2015, when the prevalence rate went down to 67 percent.

Sorsogon province had the highest prevalence rate of 89 percent while Albay had the lowest with 44 percent; Masbate, 77 percent; Catanduanes, 63 percent; Camarines Norte, 57 percent; and Camarines Sur, 52 percent.

For this year's campaign, the DOH expects to deworm at least 78 percent of the target or 2 million children aged 1 to 18 years old.

Genorga said the STH causes malnutrition, anemia, weakness and impaired physical and cognitive development.

When asked what would be the cause of the increasing prevalence rate of worm infection among children, she said one of the reasons is the Dengvaxia scare as parents fear the medication's possible side effects and adverse reactions. (PNA)