Six-year-old Lenny was struck with fever one night after two days of rain in the town of Bansalan. But there was something different; she appeared flushed. She was irritable and had poor appetite although she never complained about food. Sarah, the mother, observed that her daughter’s flushed skin had some white areas but she just ignored it.
Sarah thought the fever was just ordinary so she did bring her daughter to the doctor and instead gave her paracetamol, which she believed would help subside the fever. The fever indeed vanished one day only to return the following day. On the seventh day of on-and-off fever, Lenny experienced what most doctors called as “shock.”
“Lenny was breathing rapidly,” Sarah recalled. “She was restless and her pulse was beating fast. Her skin was cold and clammy and she felt drowsy all the time. She was vomiting and bloods were oozing from her mouth. Before long, she completely lost consciousness.”
Sarah brought her daughter to the nearest hospital, some thirty minutes away from home. One of the doctors tried to pull Lenny out of shock by replacing the fluids and bloods she lost but it was all in vain. The doctor failed to save her.
Lenny died of dengue, one of the most widespread mosquito-viral diseases in the world. “After a dengue patient has gone shock,” explained the doctor who tried to save Lenny, “it is just a matter of time before multi-organ failure occurs and death becomes inevitable.”
Bansalan is located in Davao del, one of the provinces in Davao Region to be included as “hotspots” in the Dengue Surveillance Report of the Department of Health. Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley also made it to the list.
Other dengue “hotspots” provinces listed in Mindanao were Zamboanga del Sur, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, Agusan del Norte, and Surigao del Norte.
Also included among the dengue hotspots provinces were Aurora, Bulacan, Isabela, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, and Romblon in Luzon and Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Bohol, and Samar in the Visayas.
Within three months (from January 1 to March 30), the health department reported 55,976 dengue cases. The figure was higher compared to dengue cases recorded in the same period last year: 31,247.
The number of deaths was also higher: 227 this year compared to 168 last year. Most of those deaths were recorded in Central Visayas (37), followed by Western Visayas (27), then Cagayan Valley (22) and finally Calabarzon (20).
The higher figure of dengue cases and deaths is inevitable. As DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo told reporters in Manila: “It really seems were seeing a lot of cases this year. It’s the natural cycle. Two years with low cases, one year with high cases. It looks like this is that year.”
The dengue virus is transmitted to human beings through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. “After virus incubation for 4-10 days, an infected mosquito is capable of transmitting the virus for the rest of his life,” the World Health Organization (WHO) states in its website.
However, it is the infected humans who are the main carriers and multipliers of the virus. This is the reason why if there is someone in your neighborhood who has dengue, it is most likely more people will become infected. “Patients who are already infected with the dengue virus can transmit the infection (for 4-5 days; maximum 12) via Aedes mosquitoes after their first symptoms appear,” the WHO says.
Until now, there is still no specific treatment for dengue fever. One good news is that a team of researchers from Dasmariñas’ Medical and Health Sciences Institute of De La Salle University is now conducting its Phase 1 clinical trials on “a herbal medicine that can cure dengue,” Philippine Starreports.
The medicine was formulated from three endemic – but not endangered – herbal plants in the country. The team has conducted animal studies on it and even tried among human beings, too.
“There was dramatic recovery,” said Dr. Rita Grace Alvero, a pharmacologist-epidemiologist who lead the study. “It was given to patients with very, very low platelet counts who are bleeding already. It reversed (the progression of the disease), and improved the well-being (of the patient).”
But instead of being enthusiastic, Dr. Richard T. Mata seems to be reluctant with the findings. “Plasma leakage is the problem in dengue that causes severe internal dehydration,” pointed out Dr. Mata, a dengue consultant with the WHO Philippines.
On the study that says combination of herbs increases platelets in animals who were made to have low platelets, he has this to say: “Still barking at the wrong tree.”
However, he acknowledged the researchers for the research the team is conducting but suggested that what “they need to do” is “to replicate plasma leakage in animals and then try to cure it.”
According to Dr. Mata, Thailand and Sri Lanka has zero casualties when it comes to dengue (compared to 1,000 deaths annually in the Philippines). “These countries never said they got a drug from a herb; they said its about correct fluid management,” he said.
Research in the aforementioned countries are focused more on fluid management. In comparison, most Filipino researchers “focused on herbs which are actually or are already being used by many but still the deaths are high,” Dr. Mata lamented.