Rise in dengue cases in South Cot linked to climate change

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/02 August) – Erratic climatic conditions since 2008 could have caused the steady rise in the incidence of dengue cases in South Cotabato, a provincial official, citing the result of an initial evaluation, said.

Jose Baroquillo, South Cotabato sanitary inspector, said the drastic changes in the area’s rainy season and dry period, which have become erratic and longer than usual since, was seen by local health experts as among the main factors that triggered the unusual rise in dengue cases in most parts of the province.

In 2008, South Cotabato and its neighboring areas started to experience unusual climatic changes as shown by the sporadic dry and rainy spells.

The province also recorded then it’s first ever typhoon, erasing its claim as a typhoon-free area for many decades.
“During the previous years, dengue cases only come out during the rainy season but now it’s being recorded year-round,” Baroquillo told MindaNews.

To help address the situation, he said they are currently studying some strategies to control the spread of the disease in the wake of the changes in the area’s climatic condition.

Records from the epidemiology and surveillance unit of the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) showed that dengue incidence in the province have increased significantly since 2008.

The province only recorded a total of 425 confirmed dengue cases in 2008 but it increased sharply to 991 in 2009.

Baroquillo said they have also strengthened their monitoring and coordination mechanisms with various local stakeholders regarding the necessary interventions for the disease.

“I think we need to come up with climate change adaptation mechanisms that will deal mainly on dengue and other prevailing diseases. We cannot stop these climatic changes so it’s important for us to be prepared before the situation worsens,” he added.

After posting at least 10 cases daily in June, dengue incidence in South Cotabato further rose to a daily average of 13 confirmed cases last month as the province faces a new record high in disease prevalence in three years.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido, South Cotabato health officer, said Monday they recorded 418 confirmed dengue cases in the province’s 10 towns and lone city in July, increasing the total incidence since January to a record 1,191 cases.

“Our dengue cases are still at the alarming level but our fatality rate has not increased and most of our dengue patients have already recovered, which I think are positive developments so far,” he said.

The IPHO recorded the first dengue fatality last May in Polomolok town. Three more deaths occurred in June in Koronadal City and in Polomolok and T’boli towns.

Koronadal City and Polomolok posted the highest dengue incidence in the province with combined cases of around 700 since January.

Aturdido said they also monitored the unusual rise of dengue cases in several communities in Norala and Tampakan towns since the onset of the rainy season in June.

“This is very alarming because these areas were not among our dengue hotspots in the previous years,” the health official said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)