How Local Innovations are Combating Dengue in the Philippines

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SEATTLE, Washington — Among the many diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, dengue is the most dangerous disease that affects tropical countries. In the Philippines, dengue affects Filipinos all over the nation throughout the year. The number of cases and deaths dramatically increased in 2019, jolting dengue forward as a national health crisis. However, with the help of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, Filipino researchers have worked fervently to eliminate dengue in the Philippines in simple and cost-effective ways.

Dengue Fever

As the vectors of the four dengue causing viruses (DENV-1 to DENV4), Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus transmits these dengue causing viruses to humans. The mosquitos are bountiful in still water such as puddles and increase their transmission rates during the monsoon season. They are also spread through the deficiency of dependable sanitation. Dengue affects populations in both urban and suburban areas. Although some will show no symptoms even if they are exposed to the virus, the rest will have flu-like symptoms.

The symptoms of dengue include spiking fevers, rashes, acute headaches and tenderness in the muscles, joints and bones. The disease can advance to an even more severe form called Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever. Those who have progressed to having a hemorrhagic fever can have acute abdominal pain, bruises, inability to stop bleeding and convulsions that could lead to the patient’s circulatory system shutting down. Although the patient’s body can build immunity to the same serotype of the virus, the patient will be more susceptible to the fatal symptoms if he or she is exposed to a different serotype. Currently, there are no vaccines to treat the virus.

New Health Innovations

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, a vital part of the Department of Science and Technology, has strived to protect the health of Filipinos through leading and supporting various research and development programs around the nation. The PCHRD supports various local health projects such as Biotek M, FASSSTER and OL (ovicidal-larvicidal) traps to prevent and detect dengue in the Philippines.

Biotek M is a detection kit that can identify dengue in the first five days. The price of the Biotek M detection kit is much lower than the regular Polymerase Chain Reaction tests. The Polymerase Chain Reaction tests can cost up to 8,000 pesos. Biotek M can reduce the cost of testing, which helps marginalized sectors most affected by dengue. Currently, Filipinos can purchase Biotek M through Manila Health Tek Inc.

Another innovation aiding in combating dengue is FASSSTER. FASSSTER stands for Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases. It’s a software that takes data from the Department of Health to Electronic Medical Records to predict how certain diseases such as dengue could spread. Health care professionals working at rural health centers can also report cases of various diseases through a simple text command. Not only does FASSSTER record cases of diseases like dengue, measles and typhoid, but the software also helped respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, the simple but effective OvicidalLarvicidal Traps prevent mosquitoes from developing. The OL Trap is made with a black cup, a lawanit strip and black pepper pellets that act as a larvicide. The mosquitoes lay their eggs on the strip that has absorbed the larvicide. This leads to the death of the eggs and larvae. The trap is widely available for the public to purchase.

Changing Tides of Dengue Cases in the Philippines

The reported cases of dengue reached more than 100,000 in the Philippines from the beginning of January to June 29 in 2019. This is an 85% increase in cases than the same time frame of the previous year. In 2019, Region IV-A, V, VI, IX and X all surpassed the epidemic threshold. Fortunately, the number of cases and deaths have significantly decreased in 2020. There were 77% fewer cases and deaths compared to the cases and deaths in 2019. They observed 60,819 cases and 236 deaths from the beginning of January to late-August 2020. This is in contrast to the 267,241 cases in 2019 during the same period of time.

Although dengue is a persistent and potentially fatal disease, Filipinos are continuously striving to bring new innovations to the table. From Biotek M to OL Trap, innovations have already begun to transform the landscape of dengue in the Philippines. As the number of cases fell back from 2019 to 2020, there is hope that the efforts of the local government and researchers can push to steadily eliminate dengue in the Philippines.

– San Sung Kim

Photo: Needpix

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