Bukidnon officials want epidemiology unit

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 Aug) – The Bukidnon provincial health office has recommended the creation and institutionalization of the provincial epidemiology surveillance unit for the early detection of diseases, a report on the dengue situation in the province to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan said.

Dr. Teresita Damasco, the provincial health officer, proposed the provision of logistics, manpower, and budgetary support from the local government unit as a permanent. The surveillance unit is one of Damasco’s eight recommendations in her report, a copy of which was furnished to MindaNews by Marivic Montesclaros, chair of the SP committee on health.

Last year the Department of Health regional office offered the same advice to the provincial government at the height of the H1N1 scare.

“For easier detection of diseases, local governments must put up their local teams of disease detectives,” said Dr. David Mendoza, Epidemiology and Surveillance unit chief and head of the Emergency Health Team of the Department of Health in Region.

Mendoza urged the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bukidnon in July last year to pass a resolution creating the Provincial Epidemiological Surveillance Unit, which he said was long overdue to detect infection of diseases in the province.

Unfortunately, he said, the city’s epidemiological surveillance unit has not been organized. “Bukidnon is zero so far in local surveillance,” he said.

The surveillance unit shall act as disease detectives not only for H1N1 but also other diseases such as tuberculosis, dengue and others, he said.

Damasco’s report cited an average of 400 dengue cases per year in Bukidnon. The average fatality rate is 1.4 percent. The biggest fatality in the last five years was noted in 2005, when 19 of the 550 cases reported died of the mosquito-borne disease.

From January to July 30, 2010, the PHO reported a total of 1,107 dengue cases. But she clarified it is only “suspected” as not all of these cases were confirmed dengue cases.

The figure, her report said, is 583 percent higher compared to the same period last year at 162 cases.

About 50 percent of the cases, or 518 of the 1,107, involved children from ages one to nine.

Damasco attributed the increasing number of cases to “increased awareness of the community to the ill effects of the disease”.

Also, she added, because of the past experiences by local government units, these prodded to push the initiatives in preventing and controlling the spread or occurrence of the diseases.

But Damasco said up to the present the actions have been “reactive.”

“With the experience, there are no sustainable and proactive activities conducted in every locality,” she added in her report’s conclusion.

The other recommendations she made included the intensification of the reporting systems not only in hospitals but also in the rural health units.

She also proposed to strengthen the creation of the provincial dengue task force and the provincial health board, among other recommendations. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)