LETTERS FROM DAVAO
By Jun Ledesma
LETHARGY is a syndrome in the bureaucracy. In government, it is quite acute especially with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Department of Health. The COMELEC is busy before during and after elections, all for about 60 days, which happens once every three years but the poll body is always hounded with problems. No one knows what exactly it does for the rest of 1,020 days.
DOH is another story. It is among the top five Departments that receive the biggest chunk of the budget but as I write this piece DOH is hounded by corruption issues and wastage of medicines worth billions of pesos that are on their way to the graveyard because these have expired.
Yesterday, August 6, DOH declared dengue epidemic and goads the public to adopt the 4-o'clock habit to eliminate breeding places of virus-carrying mosquitoes. This year is bound to register the highest number of dengue cases and deaths. This in addition to victims of Dengvaxia for our health authorities allowed our children to be the guinea pigs of anti-vaccine trials gone wrong.
Just like the electoral exercises which happen once every three years, dengue fever emerges every year in the Philippines from July, peaks in August to September and then subsides towards November. The Health authorities however never ever bothered to come up with some measures to contain the infection until it goes out of hand. And here we are facing an epidemic and the death toll is rising.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for dengue fever and we are left with prevention measures and then with folkloric medicines which fortunately appear to arrest the decline of a number of platelets in the blood and increase this very quickly the moment the patient takes it. I am referring to tawa-tawa decoction. A scientific experiment done by undergraduate students from the University of Santo Tomas on this herbal medicine showed that platelet count increased by nearly 50% while bleeding, if any, was reduced dramatically once the patient takes it. Of course, the other advice for dengue patient is to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
I am sure that DOH heard of “tawa-tawa” herbal medicine but they would rather go for Dengvaxia than promote the native decoction. There is no money in tawa-tawa.
Prevention moreover is the best recourse to lessen the impact and spread of the dengue virus. The lesson can be absorbed from the experience of other health authorities. The mosquito-borne viral infection affects countries near the equatorial zone. The southern region of China is among the places afflicted by dengue virus before. Unlike what is happening in the Philippines health authorities of the Peoples Republic of China considered dengue a top priority health problem. Given the fact that there is no known cure, health administrators concentrated on monitoring, prevention, and control.
With the regular occurrence of dengue at a certain time of the year and the detection of the usual symptoms that the illness manifest, health authorities in southern China move to prevent the spread of the virus carried by the vector mosquitos.
In the Philippine settings this simply means that given the experience, as in the start of rainy season, DOH should already direct all the regional health authorities to partner with the local government units, especially the barangay officials, to destroy or eliminate all breeding places of mosquitos like used tires, cans, plants axils which holds water. These should prevent mosquito eggs or larvae from developing into adults. Now that dengue fever has become epidemic, spraying of pesticides has to be used to control the outbreak. During the Marcos era, health personnel conduct fogging measures to kill mosquito vectors. This means repeating the application twice or thrice because the pupae and larval stages of the vectors might not be affected by the insecticide and will develop into an adult.
Now for those who think your surroundings are potential breeding places of dengue virus-carrying mosquitos it might be wise to wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, spray insect repellants in your clothes.
I have a secret to share why Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte cannot sleep soundly unless he is under a mosquito net. He used to reside in a place near a creek where there were spots with stagnant water that are veritable breeding places of mosquitos. Later he transferred to a low-cost subdivision, in a modest home which was visited by Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Among the things Abe saw was that ever-present mosquito net. So take a cue from President Duterte. Use a mosquito net and sleep your worries of dengue away.
About the Columnist
Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.