CASE-TO-CASE BASIS: DOH chief uncertain if class suspension effective against dengue outbreak

A CHILD believed to be infected with dengue gets medical attention at the covered gym of Maasin, Iloilo which serves as annex of the Rural Health Unit. RHUs have been designated as hydration units for patients who do not exhibit warning signs. (Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon and Emme Rose Santiagudo

WILL suspension of classes help curb the rising dengue cases in Iloilo?

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has some reservations.

Duque, who was in Iloilo on Thursday for talks with local officials in Panay and Guimaras islands and visit health facilities to assess the dengue situation, said the recommendation needs to be further studied.

Rep. Julienne “Jam-Jam” Baronda of the lone district of Iloilo City, had recommended the suspension of classes, especially in elementary schools, for a few days to give way to massive clean-up drives.

Duque said suspending classes because of dengue surge resonates with the agency because most cases are in the 5-9 and 10-14 age groups.

“But we will, however, refer this to the technical office – Dengue program management of the DOH – to evaluate the recommendation,” he said.

Duque said he cannot give an outright answer to the proposal.

“Except that we think that it is sound recommendation but how is it going to be implemented because the Department of Education (DepEd) has to be in the loop in the implementation. We need to consult DepEd, as well as the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government).”

He said a risk assessment must be done first.

For one, “is the risk going to be less in school than in the community where these people reside?” Duque said. “Unless we know all the difference of the risk, it would be difficult to say that schools have higher risk.”

Duque said they might just be sending the school children to the communities with higher risks.

“It’s a case-to-case basis. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this,” he said.



Duque said that while the idea of declaring class suspensions due to dengue seems to be okay, it is not advisable on an extended or long period.

“We don’t want to be disruptive. Unless we know the difference between the risk, it will be difficult to say that the schools are higher risk and you send them into communities where there is stagnant water so baka pinababalik mo lang sa mataas na risk,” he said during his visit in Iloilo on Thursday.

Baronda, who also attended the dialogue with Duque, pointed that as a mother, she understands the fear of a parent in sending their children to school and the possibility that they might be infected with dengue virus.

Despite recent reports that confinement has slightly gone down because of dengue, Baronda said that they should not be complacent, given sporadic rains in Iloilo City,

She said that suspending classes for a few days would mobilize stakeholders to do thorough clean-up activities.

“That proposal emanated last week because I saw the surge in the dengue cases. Majority of the affected population were schoolers aging from one to ten so I wrote a letter to Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Briones but they referred me to the DOH,” she said.

For now, Duque said the public must intensify cleanup and spraying activities during weekends.

“You can do naman these cleanup activities in schools and barangays in the weekends. You do your selective fogging on the weekends rather than suspending for two weeks because this is really going to be disruptive. Ang importante dito is risk assessment kasi case to case basis yan,” he said.