R-12 to shift anti-dengue drive to upland areas

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/20 February) — Health personnel in Region 12 will focus their anti-malaria operations within the next 10 months in upland communities in the region where the disease has been endemic in the last several years.

Dr. Teogenes Baluma, Department of Health (DOH) Region 12 director, said they are currently preparing to dispatch their malaria teams to the region’s boundary areas in to address the rising indigenous cases of the mosquito-borne disease.

He specifically noted areas within the boundaries of North Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces as well as those bordering the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.

“These are the areas where most of the recorded indigenous cases of malaria in the region these past years have originated,” he said in a radio interview.

Baluma said they will jointly launch the anti-malaria operations with the health offices of the region’s four provinces and five cities.

Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

In 2013, the DOH-12’s regional epidemiology and surveillance unit (RESU) recorded a total of 42 malaria cases in the region, increasing by 13 or about 45 percent from the previous year.

Not a single case of death due to malaria was recorded in Region 12 last year, a significant improvement from the two cases in 2012.

A report released by the DOH-12’s RESU cited that Sulytan Kudarat province recorded the most number malaria cases in 2013 with 25, followed by North Cotabato with 10, this city and Sarangani with three each and Cotabato City with one.

South Cotabato province has not recorded a single case of malaria last year, sustaining its clean record for the fourth consecutive year.

Of the 42 confirmed malaria cases, the RESU noted that 12 of the patients had history of travel two weeks prior to the detection of the disease to areas where it was considered prevalent.

Four of the patients had travelled to South Upi in Maguindanao, two in Papua New Guinea and one each in Esperanza and Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat, Balabagan in Lanao del Sur and parts of Indonesia and Africa.

Owing to this, Baluma acknowledged that the region still has a long way to go in terms of the total eradication of the disease.

The official said the region has remained under the unstable level or stage in terms of the prevalence of malaria.

He said the disease’s prevalence in an area is classified from unstable, stable, sporadic to malaria-free.

According to the DOH, an area may be declared as malaria-free if it sustains zero incidence of indigenous case of the disease for five consecutive years.

“Right now, only South Cotabato is on track towards becoming malaria-free. But we’re doubling our efforts to reach the stable level and eventually improve in the next few years to sporadic and malaria-free levels,” he added. (MindaNews)