A HOUSE leader who is a former secretary of the Department of Health has challenged the country’s health officials to step up the fight against dengue following the reported sexual transmittal of the dreaded virus.
“I challenge our Department of Health to be more proactive in combating dengue. Let us listen and learn from what actual experts have to say on the rising and new modalities of dengue virus. Only then are we assured of protecting our children and safeguarding the very foundations of our health institutions for a healthier Philippines,” said House senior Deputy Minority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin.
Garin said the Department of Health (DOH) should seriously look into the disclosure of Spanish health authorities recently that a 41-year-old man contracted dengue, apparently after having sex with a male partner.
“But this discovery of a new transmission mode must be seriously considered while the scientific community continues to study its tenacity,” said Garin. “The recorded case of dengue virus acquisition through sexual contact is new and poses an insurmountable danger in the public health sector.”
Cavite Rep. Elpidio “Pidi” Barzaga Jr., who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, underscored the need for Filipinos to practice safe sex aimed at avoiding dengue and other dreaded diseases.
“While dengue infection through sexual contact is extremely rare, the best way is for the government to further encourage Filipinos to practice safe sex,” said Barzaga.
Garin lamented the continued campaign against the use of Dengvaxia to fight dengue despite its being listed as an essential medicine and openness of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to utilize the vaccine following the DOH’s declaration last August of a national dengue epidemic.
“The continued and unjust blocking of the current available vaccine even to the private sector despite it being listed in the essential medicines list is only delaying health services which translates to deaths and serious morbidities,” said Garin.
“Some of the oppositors of Dengvaxia repeatedly advised DOH to wait for a competitor vaccine. Now that Takeda is out, I call on the DOH to stand true to their promise of making available what is necessary. If they curtail its availability to the poor by stopping the government program, at least make it available to those who can afford so that sources of infection can be reduced,” Garin added.
Garin said the “Philippines has a dengue seroprevalence of 90%, meaning nine out 10 Filipinos have been or are currently infected by dengue.”
“Meanwhile, 80% of the 90% (seven out of the nine infected) are asymptomatic or unaware that they have the virus and do not show any symptoms. At this rate sexual transmission might explain the rapid spread of infection and persistent reinfection by other dengue types. This will translate to more severe types of dengue. Remember that a second dengue infection is always more severe, sometimes even detrimental,” Garin added.
The public health department of Spain has recorded the first sexual transmission of dengue virus in Madrid.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which monitors diseases in Europe, said this case was “the first sexual transmission of the dengue virus among men who have sex with men.”