The Provincial Health Office has yet to confirm reports that at least 17 people in a coastal barangay in Bagamanoc have been stricken by the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus.
Provincial Health Officer II Dr. Lubelia Sanchez told the Tribune last Friday (Feb. 1) that while the Rural Health Unit has reported that number of residents from Bagatabao who sought medical assistance for symptoms similar to fever caused by the virus, it is not yet certain whether the ailments were indeed caused by Chikungunya.
She disclosed that her office has sent blood samples from six patients to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Metro Manila for testing. The PHO team went to the barangay last Jan. 24 after receiving the info from municipal health officer Dr. Anabel Pelagio-Peralta.
According to the health advisory issued by the PHO to all RHUs, Chikungunya virus is spread by bites from infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. It causes a sudden onset of high-grade fever, severe joint pain mainly in the arms and legs, muscle pain, headache and back pain, with 50% of the patients developing rashes.
The word chikungunya is thought to derive from a description in the local Makonde dialect, meaning "that which bends up", of the contorted posture of patients afflicted with the severe joint pain and arthritic symptoms associated with the disease. The disease was first described by Marion Robinson and W.H.R. Lumsden in 1955, following an outbreak in 1952 on the Makonde Plateau, along the border between Mozambique and then Tanganyika (the modern part of modern day Tanzania) in the African continent.
While the CHIK virus does not often result to death, the symptoms can be disabling and some persons may get severe complications. “There is no vaccine to prevent Chinkungunya and there is no specific medication available to treat the fever,” the PHO said. However, it added, using medicines other than aspirin to lower fever and joint pain may help.
The symptoms appear about three to seven days after a victim is bitten by an infected mosquito. If an infected person is subsequently bitten by a mosquito, that mosquito could spread the virus by biting another person, the PHO warned.
It said that compared to dengue, the CHIK virus is “self-limiting,” with the victims’ high fever usually lasting for a period of five days. However, there are cases reported in other countries where the joint pain lasts for months and for as long as two years.
An in-depth probe of the Bagamanoc cases is being undertaken by local health officials, particularly an allegation that the virus may have been brought to Bagatabao by fishermen who have been in contact with fishermen from Rapu-Rapu island in Albay where the disease was first reported to have infected 83 villagers in Batan town in the Bicol region in September 2012.
The PHO advisory called on residents to avoid mosquito bites by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants; use mosquito repellent on exposed skin; ensure that windows and door screens are intact; and use airconditioning, when available, to make households less hospitable to mosquitoes.
It likewise urged the people to keep their surroundings clean and to practice the 4S against disease-carrying mosquitoes: searching and destroying mosquito breeding places; self-protection; seeking early treatment; and, saying “no” to indiscriminate fogging.