State of calamity declared in Tampakan due to chikungunya outbreak

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 July) — Officials of Tampakan town in South Cotabato have declared the entire area under a state of calamity due to the continuing outbreak of the mosquito-borne chikungunya disease.

Jenelyn Roca, spokesperson of the Tampakan local government, said Wednesday the Sangguniang Bayan or municipal council made the declaration on Tuesday to allow the immediate use of the town’s calamity funds to address the disease outbreak.

“We’re only waiting for the final copy of the declaration (so the mayor can act on it),” she said in a radio interview.

The calamity declaration, initially recommended by the municipal health board, was aimed at facilitating the implementation of more focused initiatives that will help contain the viral disease and prevent it from further spreading, she said.

As of Wednesday, the municipal health office reported that the number of chikungunya cases in the area has reached 306.

The affected areas were barangays Poblacion, Maltana and Kipalbig, where the initial cases of chikungunya  were detected in the first week of June.

According to the World Health Organization’s Media Cenre, Chikungunya is a viral disease that is spread by mosquitoes and causes fever and severe joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.

The disease, the WHO said, “shares some clinical signs with dengue, and can be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue is common.”

It added that there is “no cure for the disease. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms.”\

“The proximity of mosquito breeding sites to human habitation is a significant risk factor for chikungunya,” it said.

Dr. Washington Loreno, Tampakan health officer, said they are presently monitoring several other areas for possible cases.

“Our consultations and treatment for the disease are ongoing. In fact, we have detected new cases yesterday,” he said.

Aside from Tampakan, two cases of chikungunya were confirmed last Monday by local health personnel in Barangay Crossing Rubber in Tupi town.

The Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) of South Cotabato said 36 chikungunya cases were also recorded in Barangay San Roque in Koronadal City.

Barangay Crossing Rubber in Tupi town is among the closest villages to Tampakan while parts of Barangay San Roque in Koronadal City host banana plantations of the Tampakan-based Global Fruits Corporation (GFC) and Lapanday Diversified Products.

The IPHO earlier pointed to the area’s banana plantations as the possible breeding places of mosquitoes that carry the chikungunya virus.

Cecil Lorenzo, IPHO disease surveillance officer, earlier said four of the initial six persons suspected to have been suffering from chikungunya  were employees at a banana plantation in Barangay Kipalbig.

She said the two chikungunya cases in Barangay Kipalbig were affirmed based on the results of confirmatory tests conducted by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City.

“We’re now focused on the treatment of the patients. We no longer need to submit blood tests to the RITM because the area is already infected with the disease based on the initial tests,” she said.

Roca said the local government will launch massive cleanup and fogging operations on Thursday in areas affected by the chikungunya outbreak.

The cleanup drive, which was personally pushed by Tampakan Mayor Leonardo Escobillo, will focus on the suspected breeding places of chikungunya-carrying mosquitoes within the area’s banana plantations.

The IPHO, through its technical office, already provided 200 sachets of larvicide, a chemical used to kill larval pests like mosquitoes’ larvae or “kiti-kiti.”

Tampakan town is the base of the Tampakan copper-gold project of the Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)