By Mike Crismundo
BUTUAN CITY – Three provinces in Caraga region have been declared as “drug-free” provinces in northeastern Mindanao, health authorities on Wednesday said.
“The provinces of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Islands in Caraga Region have been declared malaria free,“ disclosed Regional Director Dr. Jose R. Llacuna, Jr. of the Department of Health (DOH 13).
During a media forum last week (April 19), the region’s top health official also disclosed that the agency is optimistic that soon the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte will also be declared malaria free.
He said Agusan del Sur province will be assessed next month, May 8 to 11, by the technical working group from the central office of the same agency, while Agusan del Norte will be assessed next year if there will be no reported indigenous case.
The regional office of the DOH 13 here also announced that the two provinces in Caraga Region will soon be declared malaria free and they are closer to achieving their goal of being malaria free for the five provinces of the region.
Records from DOH 13 suggest that the last reported case of malaria was in 2013 in barangay Mahaba in Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte.
Before a province can be eligible and could be considered for the validation and investigation from the technical working group of the malaria control and elimination program from the central office, the province must have the span of five years without any reported indigenous case of malaria. Indigenous, meaning it should be coming from the locality and not from someone travelling and bringing the case to the province.
“We can only do so much but to prevent mosquito bites, practice vector control and effective surveillance are essential in our effort to eradicate malaria. Patients diagnosed with malaria should be treated promptly with effective anti-malaria medicines to regain health and to prevent onward transmissions of the disease in the community,” Director Llacuna said.
Under the program, all Philippine provinces should have reached malaria elimination not later than 2025 in the hope to achieve a malaria-Free Philippines by 2030, it was learned.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. It is, however, preventable and curable.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all cases of suspected malaria be confirmed using parasite-based diagnostic testing: microscopy or rapid diagnostic test.
Vector control and other preventive measures against mosquitos is still the foremost method to prevent and reduce malaria transmission followed by other strategies like provision of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), perform indoor residual spraying (IRS) and administer anti-malarial drugs to cases or as prophylaxis.
“Effective surveillance is essential at all points on the road to a malaria-free country, Director Llacuna said, adding “Patients diagnosed with malaria should be treated promptly with effective anti-malarial medicines to regain health and to prevent onward transmission of the disease in the community”.