By Diamay Klem D. Balacuit
Vol. XCIII No. 7
Sept. 27, 2019
The year has not ended yet, but three deadly epidemics have already emerged. The poverty-stricken country now faces another set of challenges to overcome—the dengue, measles, and polio outbreaks.
The public’s agony
It was in the beginning of this year and up to present when these diseases caused a huge alarm to the public. Dengue, a mosquito-borne virus, caused agony and continues to bring so much suffering. This virus is caused by day-biting Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which are bred in any stagnant water stored by any containers such as plastic bottles, tires, clogged canals and others. According to the Department of Health (DOH), dengue virus affected almost 146,000 people all over the country, both young and old, poor or rich. This virus also brought almost 600 deaths. Because of this overwhelming number of victims, DOH declared it as an epidemic—driving the local government units to strengthen their existing solutions in aiding this problem.
The DOH, which is struggling to find ways in solving the dengue epidemic, is now facing another challenge—the measles outbreak. Measles, an airborne disease, commonly affects infants and children below 5 years-old, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This disease brings fatality to the affected children if left untreated.
However, the problem does not only end with these two. Instead, another adversary emerged from its sleeping state—driving the DOH to find ways to eradicate it again. The Polio virus re-emerged after the country was declared ‘Polio-Free’ for almost 19 years by the WHO. The virus multiplies rapidly and is found primarily in unsanitary locations. It can be spread through infected droplets via coughing and sneezing, and consumption of contaminated food or water. Polio can weaken a person’s brain and spinal cord, causing varying levels of paralysis. People living in the waterways where the virus reemerged (Manila, Davao) are vulnerable, especially those who base their livelihood in those waterways.
The root cause
These diseases are preventable. The unsanitary environment can be solved—yet ignored by many.
One of the ways the government and the health sector tells the public in solving these epidemics is through vaccination. These vaccinations are done in series and are given to infants through oral medicine or injections. These vaccines aim to prevent the children to be infected from these diseases—where cure is yet to be found.
In this time of modern technology where social media is used by many, the spread of dubious claims about vaccinations is rampant. These claims are made without any support. These claims originate from a case series study made in the 1990s, which suggested that vaccines cause autism — it has since been retracted. In the Philippines, some people have turned their backs to the government’s effort in their vaccination projects due to the public scare caused by anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia movement, as stated in an article released by ABS-CBN News. With the decline of vaccination rates, the setting for recurrence of polio virus is already ripe, according to Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo.
Aside from the spread of misinformation that halted the public to trust the government’s initiative, unsanitary environment comes in addition to the sources of the existence of these diseases. Different information drive programs are being held by the government to highlight the importance of cleanliness—yet inaction of the public prevails.
A solution will always come
Despite the problems brought by these deadly epidemics, the DOH still hopes to end these adversaries that caused a lot of misery to the public. Equipping the public about the importance of cleanliness and continuing to give vaccination programs to them are the goals of DOH in solving these deadly epidemics. Controversies may hinder them—but their mission in serving the public continues.