For some strange reason, dengue-virus-carrying mosquitoes prefer to bite humans between 4 to 6 a.m. and again between 4 to 6 p.m. These magic hours are what the Department of Health is taking advantage of these days to curb the spread of a potentially deadly infection.
In a bid to encourage greater community participation, the DOH recently relaunched its 4-o’clock habit, which designates 4 p.m. as the anti-dengue hour, to encourage people to search and destroy mosquito breeding sites in their area and be updated of the current dengue situation in their community.
During the relaunch, which was held in Batangas City, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that community mobilization, led by the barangay officials, is an effective means to encourage the people to act against dengue through the strengthened strategy of 4-o’clock habit.
Ona said: “The DOH can never be complacent toward our campaign against dengue even with the decrease in cases and deaths. This urges us to intensify more our efforts to control dengue.”
From January 1 to March 30, dengue cases stand at 23,615 wherein 104 had died already. In the same period last year, dengue cases reached 23,672, with 144 recorded deaths.
This year’s anti-dengue theme—titled “Stop, Look, and Listen. ABKD, Pagtibayin!” (ABKD refers to Aksyon Barangay Kontra Dengue)—will focus on residents’ stopping every 4 p.m. to look inside and outside their houses to search for and destroy possible mosquito-breeding places, listen to the barangay officials about the dengue status in their respective communities and barangays, and join the ABKD activity.
“The fight against dengue requires a strong commitment from all sectors of the society. We are very privileged to be a partner of the DOH in its public awareness campaign for the prevention of this disease,” said Ching Santos, country manager of Sanofi Pasteur in the Philippines, co-organizer of this year’s nationwide campaign.
She said that while there is no specific treatment available yet for dengue fever, Sanofi Pasteur is currently conducting clinical trials for a candidate dengue vaccine.
“Large-scale phase 3 studies are ongoing in Latin America and in Asia, including the Philippines. The company’s tetravalent dengue vaccine is the leading candidate dengue vaccine in development. But until the availability of the vaccine and other treatment, vigilance is probably the best action that the public could do against the disease.”
Dengue is caused by any of the four related viruses transmitted by mosquitoes. These viruses could cause high fever, severe headache, severe pain behind the eyes, joint pain, muscle and bone pain, rash, and mild bleeding (e.g., nose or gums bleed, easy bruising).
Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is characterized by a fever that lasts from two to seven days, with general signs and symptoms consistent with dengue fever. When the fever subsides, symptoms including persistent vomiting, severe abdominal pain and breathing difficulties may develop. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this marks the beginning of a 24- to 48-hour period when the smallest blood vessels become excessively permeable (“leaky”).
This may lead to failure of the circulatory system and shock, followed by death if circulatory failure is not corrected. In addition, the patient with DHF has a low platelet count and has the tendency to bruise easily or exhibit other types of skin hemorrhages, bleeding nose or gums, and possibly internal bleeding.
Santos said simple measures like discarding stagnant pools of water in old or unused tires, flower pots and vases and covering buckets used for water storage could go a long way in controlling the prevalence of the disease in the country.
The DOH reported a 64.75-percent reduction of cases at the National Capital Region compared to the same period last year—from 5,700 to 2,009 cases. The number of deaths due to dengue in NCR decreased also from 35 to 5 deaths for the same period last year.
However, most cases came from Central Visayas (3,759), Calabarzon (3,079), Davao Region (2,249) and Western Visayas (2,050).