Parents urged to avail free vaccination for children vs. Japanese encephalitis

Marje Pelayo   •   February 5, 2019   •   2346

PAMPANGA, Philippines – Architect Neil Licayan lost his daughter to Japanese encephalitis (JE).

Neil remembered Jessica, then 15 years old, as a sporty, young athlete before her health started to deteriorate when she suffered from the disease.

Jessica died in 2018.

“She was active sa school. She was athletic. Dito po sa aming munting rest house, lahat ng gusto niya we play basketball together. She loved swimming in school and she was the most diligent among us sa pag intake po ng vitamins,” Neil said.

Neil recalled how swift the complications began to appear from what they initially thought was an ordinary headache, though her fever went on and off for two to three days.

“Typical lagnat so we were not that concerned,” he said.

“(It was) Saturday, (we went for her) check up. Naglalakad sa school ipapa-IV lang po namin siya para kasi final exams just so makabawi ang strength niya. Sunday morning comatosed na po ang anak ko and Tuesday wala na po siya. Ganoon kabilis,” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) Region 3 warned parents to monitor their children especially if they show flu-like symptoms.

“Ang sintomas ng Japanese encephalitis ay katulad rin ng marami. Kapag ikaw ay nagkaka-trangkas or flu-like (symptoms) – mayroon siyang lagnat, nananakit ang kasukasuan, masakit ang ulo – sa mga bata kadalasan sumasakit ang kanilang tiyan,” explained Dr. Maria Rosario Vergerie.

“Maaari mo siyang ihalintulad sa ibang sakit na parang mga trangkaso,” she added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported an average of 40,000 patients dying of Japanese encephalitis every year where three patients out of 10, die of the disease.

In most cases, the WHO said, patients develop permanent disabilities such as paralysis, speech impairment and mental defects.

Based on DOH record, the highest number of Japanese encephalitis infection in the country in 2018 was recorded in Region 3 with 308 confirmed cases and 9 deaths.

“One of the reasons na mataas sa Region 3, ang central Luzon is the rice granary. So maraming palayan, marami tayong poultries na gustong gusto ng JE mosquito,” explained Dr. Jessie Fontane, Head of the DOH Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit.

“Medyo delikado po talaga yung Japanese encephalitis dahil po siya ay nakamamatay,” said DOH regional director Dr. Cesar Cassion.

Because of this, the DOH Region 3 will conduct a one-time mass immunization campaign on JE for free in seven provinces in the month of March which targets one million children age 9 months to 5 years-old who are the most vulnerable age group.

A vaccination is a lifetime protection for a child that’s why the agency is encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated.

The DOH assured the public that the government’s immunization program is safe and tested.

“Pero based naman doon sa mga track record ng mga bakuna na ito, more than 30 years na itong ginagamit in 12 countries. Gusto lang (natin) i-emphasize na 400 million doses na po ang naibigay. Based naman dun sa kasaysayan na ito, sa experience na ito na safe po ito at saka proven,” Cassion assured.

Japanese encephalitis is an infection spread through mosquito bites. It is a serious disease which takes 5 up to 15 days to develop. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, difficulty moving and confusion. It can be fatal if not immediately attended. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Leslie Huidem)

DOH wants tax on salty food products

Robie de Guzman   •   October 30, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is eyeing to propose imposing additional taxes on salty food products in a bid to lower the high incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country.

High consumption of salt is one of the causes of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, stroke and chronic respiratory illnesses. Excessive salt intake is also related to hypertension, kidney diseases and cardiovascular problems, according to the DOH.

DOH spokesperson and Undersecretary Eric Domingo noted that the recommended salt intake per day for adult Filipinos is just under a teaspoon or around two grams.

The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier said that the recommended salt intake per day should be less than five grams.

“Ang cause ng hypertension sa atin, maliban sa paninigarilyo, ay pagkain ng maalat. Dapat po isang tao, 2 grams lang per day, tayo po ang konsyumo natin 11-15 grams per day, so tayo ay 4-5 times sa mga Filipino,” Domingo said in a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday.

High sodium intake raises blood pressure that leads to stroke and heart diseases, the two biggest causes of death and disability worldwide, according to the WHO.

In the Philippines, the DOH reported that more than 170,000 individuals die each year from heart diseases, specifically hypertension.

To curb the high incidence of these diseases and to help encourage people to eat healthy foods, the DOH is pushing for the imposition of additional taxes on products with too much salt.

Domingo cited the experience of several countries that imposed tax on unhealthy food which forced companies to adjust their product formulation.

“And it has been found in many countries that when you tax products that are unhealthy, talagang nagde-decrease kasi ang intake and the companies reformulate yung kanilang product,” he said.

The government has implemented tax on sugary drinks as well as on tobacco products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

DOH pushes for total ban on e-cigarettes

Robie de Guzman   •   October 30, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday called for a total ban on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), stressing that it has no proven positive effect on the user’s health.

According to Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, the use of e-cigarettes or vaping is not a proven replacement therapy for nicotine addiction.

“If the DOH had its way, we would go for an outright ban,” Domingo told reporters in a press briefing in Malacañang.

He also noted that a proposal is now being crafted in an aim to ban e-cigarettes and other similar devices.

“And I think there is possible legal legislation that will be proposed sa Senate and the House, and we will support it,” he said.

Domingo said there are more than one million Filipinos, mostly youth, using e-cigarettes in the country.

The health official said they are now monitoring case reports of injuries and illnesses documented arising from the use of these devices amid a rising number of such cases in other countries.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration earlier advised hospitals under the DOH to report any vaping-related cases in line with the emerging report of such cases from Europe and North America as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (USCDC).

The USCDC in August issued an advisory, cautioning the public against the purchase and use of vaping ingredients from the street and to stop modifying either nicotine or cannabis e-cigarette in an effort to curb the reportedly rising cases of vaping-related sicknesses in 25 U.S. states.

“Based on reports from several states, patients have experienced respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain), and some have also experienced gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) or non-specific constitutional symptoms (fatigue, fever, or weight loss). Symptoms typically develop over a period of days but sometimes can manifest over several weeks,” the advisory read.

The USCDC has recommended some steps for clinicians, including the reporting of cases of severe pulmonary disease of unclear etiology and history of e-cigarette use within the past 90 days, to help determine the cause of these sicknesses.

READ: WHO: Tobacco kills 8 million each year, e-cigarettes not a proven alternative

The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier said the use of e-cigarettes should be regulated as there is no evidence proving they were a safer alternative to cigarettes, warning that it normalizes smoking and hooks young people. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

DOH issues safety tips for the long weekend

Maris Federez   •   October 29, 2019

People visit the graves of their departed loved ones at a public cemetery in Manila, Philippines, 01 November 2018. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO

The Department of Health (DOH) has issued some safety tips in going to memorial parks for the long weekend holiday.

The DOH said it is wise to bring own bottled water and food when going to memorial parks to ensure that they are clean and to avoid acquiring food-borne diseases from street foods.

The health department also reminded the public to be sure that the water they bring is enough to avoid dehydration.

It also said it is prudent to bring an umbrella to be shielded from the blazing sun or the pouring rain.

As healthcare, the DOH advised wearing masks when one has a cough or cold so as not to contaminate others.

The health department is also discouraging parents from bringing their children to crowded places so they can shield their children from diseases.

It added that it is better to have someone who can alternately look after the children in the safety of their homes.

Same tip applies in caring for the elderly, especially those who have heart problems or with hypertension.

Hospitals are also on standby for code white alert of personnel and staff. (from the report of Aiko Miguel) /mbmf

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