By Beverly T. Natividad
Last updated 09:03pm (Mla time) 11/15/2007
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DoH) has declared six more provinces as malaria-free, bringing to 22 the number of provinces which have eliminated the mosquito-borne disease.
In a statement, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Marinduque, Sorsogon, Albay, Eastern and Western Samar, Surigao del Norte were declared malaria-free in 2007. This, he said, reduced the number of malaria infested provinces in the country to only 57 this year.
“These results are encouraging especially in view of our Millennium Development Goal of halting and reversing the incidence of malaria and other diseases by 2015,â€ added Duque.
The absence of local malaria cases in the past five years served as the main indicator of a malaria-free province, said Cristy Galang, program manager for malaria elimination at the DoHâ€™s National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (NCDPC).
The DoH started the assessment of the six latest malaria-free provinces in the first quarter of 2007, said Galang. Through epidemiological surveillance, the DoH found that the six areas had no more local transmission of the disease despite the possible existence of the environment, which could bring about the disease, she said.
Of the countryâ€™s 79 provinces, Galang said, 16 provinces were previously declared free of the disease. Thirteen of the 16 eliminated malaria in the 1990s. These are Aklan, Biliran, Bohol, Camiguin, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cebu, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Northern Samar and Siquijor.
Three of the 16 — Benguet, Masbate and Cavite — beat the disease in 2006, according to the DoH.
Malaria is usually transmitted through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito, which is infected by parasites known as Plasmodium. The malaria disease could also be passed on through blood transfusion, sharing of intravenous needles, and from an infected mother to her unborn child.
Infected persons show such symptoms as chills, fever, heavy sweating after the fever subsides, and headache.
DoH data show that malaria cases in 2005 among affected provinces in the country reached 46,342, and resulted in 150 deaths. In 2006, the DoH said, malaria cases declined to 33,852, with resulting deaths falling to 89.