Bukidnon’s first schisto-free village cited

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 17 July) – The Department of Health has declared Brgy. Imbatug in the municipality of Cabanglasan as schistosomiasis-free, the first in Bukidnon since the DOH started its program to control the disease in 1975.

About 3,000 people from the village have been exposed to schistosomiasis over decades. Since 1988, the DOH Schistosomiasis Control Office has conducted mass treatment in the village – testing bodies of water for schisto-carrying snails and examining human stools for the disease.

But for straight five years up to 2013, no one has tested positive of the disease. Since 1994, no more bodies of water tested positive, too.

Schistosomiasis is said to be endemic in 54 of Bukidnon’s 464 barangays.

Imbatug is the second barangay in Northern Mindanao to be declared schisto-free. Brgy. Sumirap in Tangub City got the distinction just last week, according to Dr. Vincent Raguro, DOH regional schistosomiasis control coordinator.

He said they used statistics showing zero snail population and zero infection as bases for the declaration of schisto-free villages.

The DOH showed in a report that 20 bodies of water, including Tampayon Spring and Creek with the biggest number of snail population, passed the test since 1994.

Raguro cited that case finding and mass treatment, snail control, and political will contributed to the village’s success in ridding it of the disease.

In earlier interviews, Raguro cited a combination of lack of medicines, problem of attitude among residents, and lack of political will of the local government to have contributed in the spread of the disease.

Schistosomiasis is endemic or prevalent in Bukidnon’s two cities – Malaybalay (17 villages) and Valencia (17 villages); and nine towns – Cabanglasan (2 villages), Impasug-ong (4 villages), Kitaotao ( 1 village), Kalilangan (2 villages), Lantapan (1 village), Maramag (1 village), Quezon (3 villages), San Fernando (5 villages), and Sumilao (1 village).

The endemic areas cover about 236,338 out of Bukidnon’s population of at least 1.2 million.

Formal rites will be held in Imbatug, Cabanglasan town Thursday for the official declaration and awarding for the schisto-free feat.

A schistosomiasis stakeholders’ forum will also be held in Valencia City on Friday to focus on the fight against the disease in the province.

Raguro cited that five other villages out of the remaining 53 were qualified to be cleared from schistosomiasis if they continue to have zero infection next year.

The DOH has described schistosomiasis as a chronic disease affecting the poor, marginalized sector comprising the farmers and freshwater fishers and their families, indigenous peoples living in swampy areas and near lakes. They added that residents of mountainous terrains without sanitation facilities and potable sources of water, and agriculture and irrigation workers and women doing domestic work, are at risk.

As of 2009, only 2.5 million people all over the country were directly exposed to disease transmission sites but 12.5 million are estimated to be at high risk to schistosomiasis infection. The DOH cited the risk present in 190 towns, 20 cities, in 28 provinces around the country.

In 2009, when the DOH declared July as the Mass Treatment Month for Schistosomiasis, 16 of the 24 provinces in the country where mass treatment was required were from Mindanao.