LEGAZPI CITY -- The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Bicol has directed governors, city and town mayors in the region to undertake a synchronized sanitation and cleanliness drive after a national dengue epidemic was declared by the Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday.

Anthony Nuyda, DILG regional director, said the agency has issued a circular to various local government units directing them to activate their respective Dengue Emergency Operation Centers (EOC) in implementing the DOH's “Sabayang 4 o’clock habit para Deng-Get Out” cleanliness drive in the six provinces down to the 3,741 villages in Bicol.

“We will mobilize our field units to closely monitor preventive and control measures by local government units in the prevention and control of dengue,” he said in a phone interview.

Nuyda said after the region was placed under "blue alert” by the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) due to the rising dengue cases, the agency already issued an advisory to local government units to undertake cleanliness and sanitation drives in their areas.

Dr. Ernie Vera, DOH regional director, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that he has coordinated with the DILG to ensure that the synchronized “4 o’çlock habit” will be carried out in the region.

Vera told stakeholders that the primary interventions to prevent and control dengue are sustained community efforts in searching and destroying mosquito breeding sites in homes, workplaces, and schools.

“We enjoin all government agencies, LGUs, schools, private offices and the entire Bicolanos to conduct their Sabayang 4 o’clock habit para Deng-Get Out,” he said.

Vera said the DOH regional epidemiology surveillance unit (RESU) has recorded 4,241 dengue cases with 40 deaths from the period January 1 to August 3 this year, which shows a 157-percent increase from the 1,653 cases and 18 deaths during the same period last year.

The top three provinces with the most number of cases are Camarines Sur, which has recorded 1,706 cases with 17 deaths; followed by Sorsogon with 784 and eight deaths; and Albay with 79 cases and 10 deaths.

Vera said the figures reported are only the “tip of the iceberg” as these numbers were gathered from a trendsetting formula where the data were gathered from 11 hospital sentinels across the region.

Asked why are there discrepancies in the reports from the provinces, he said the agency is adopting a trending formula in the report while the complete data could be gathered from the provincial health offices, which, however, are not immediately available because these need further confirmation and validation.

“What we are reporting are only trends but if you are asking for the real numbers, the cases would double; citing as an example is the 4,000 cases reported by DOH, which could reach 8,000 cases,” he said.

Dr. Aurora Deluro, DOH-RESU chief, said Bicol has six million population, and the ratio of dengue incidence in the region would be 70 people acquiring the virus for every 10,000 people.

Vera said after the DOH has declared a national dengue epidemic, the LGUs can draw out Quick Response Funds (QRF) from their respective internal revenue allotment and 30 percent from their 5-percent calamity fund.

The DOH in Bicol has set a PHP5-million QRF to be used in curbing the spread of dengue. (PNA)