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Arm your family against that small bite that may turn out to be lethal.

BY Lynda Corpuz

JUNE 2011

It begins with a bite. The seemingly insignificant pinprick of that small, black-and-white striped, female Aedes egypti mosquito can cause mild to incapacitating high fever, a severe headache, pain behind the eyes, muscle and joint aches, and rashes, which can last from three to 14 days. We all know the signs as dengue, a mosquito-borne viral infection that has increased 30-fold in the last 50 years, according to the World Health Organization.

Severe dengue or dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is a complication commonly seen in children under the age of 15. It is characterized by high fever, often with enlargement of the liver, and in severe cases, circulatory failure. Two to five days after the onset of fever, the patient rapidly deteriorates.

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for dengue or vaccine to prevent it. Treatments usually consist of rest, the replacement of lost fluids, and in severe cases, blood transfusion. The mosquito, however, is not the sole culprit of dengue. We, too, are responsible for the spread of the virus if we don’t clear possible breeding grounds for mosquitoes in our home and community.

Protect yourself

The Department of Health (DoH) reported a 100 percent increase in the number of dengue cases in Metro Manila in only the first two months of 2011. Here’s how to bring down those numbers:

Repel. While it does not mosquito-proof you, using an insect repellent reduces the chance of being bitten.

Choose wisely. Internationally, DEET (N.N Diethylmeta- toluamide)—the most common active ingredient for repellent products—has been proven the most effective insect repellent ingredient. There are also other repellents available in the market but they vary in effectiveness and work differently per individual. Citronella, for instance, is only effective for shorter durations and needs to be applied more often. Read the label of the repellant you are buying. Due to possible toxicity, DEET-containing repellants should be used with caution in children.

Protect your home

The DoH-Center for Health Development-Metro Manila stressed the importance of eliminating stagnant water around you. Mosquitoes can lay their eggs and breed on still water the size of a 25-centavo coin! To avoid inadvertently storing possible breeding grounds:

Keep dry. At all times, turn the pails and watering cans over and store them under shelter. Drain the water in plant pot plates. Cover rarely used gully traps and, if necessary, replace them with non-perforated ones and install anti-mosquito valves. Do not put trays or receptacles beneath and/or on top of any air-conditioning unit or water dispenser as these are also potential mosquito breeding sites. If you have a swimming pool, make sure it is properly maintained and have drainage problems fixed right away.

Plant well. Always clean and scrub the pot plates thoroughly to remove mosquito eggs or avoid using them at all, if possible. Also, loosen soil from potted plans to prevent stagnant water from accumulating on the surface of the hardened soil. Every other day, change the water in vases and clean and scrub the inner sides of them. Wash roots of flowers and plants thoroughly as mosquito eggs can stick to them easily.

Protect your community

The DoH also urged the involvement of barangays to keep their communities dengue-free. “We want them to be aware that DoH can only do this much, but the bulk of the work is really with the barangay,” says Dr. Irma Asuncion of the health department. Mix civic consciousness in your fight against dengue:

Get connected. In the same way the DoH urged barangay leaders to come up with ordinances to make health and disease prevention their major agenda, you too can find out if your barangay has an ongoing anti-dengue campaign you can participate in, like a clean-up drive.

Be aware. If you live in Quezon City, Manila, Pasig City, Caloocan City, Valenzuela City, and Parañaque City—identified as having the most number of dengue cases last year—be especially vigilant in keeping your surroundings clean. When the DoH launches Dengue Awareness Month this June, follow the preventive measures they will announce.

For  more information about protecting your loved ones from dengue, check out the June 2011 issue of Health Today now available on the newsstands.


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