By Analou De Vera
The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said that there are no new confirmed cases of polio, and that the public should not be alarmed by recent reports of diphtheria emerging in some parts of the country.
Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo made the statement after reports surfaced about seven suspected polio cases in Zamboanga Peninsula area.
Domingo clarified that so far, there have only been two cases of confirmed polio— that involving a three-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur and a five-year-old boy from Laguna.
The health official said that the reported cases could have been cases of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP).
“So far, of all the cases of AFP, we only have two confirmed cases of polio and those are our patients from Lanao Del Sur and [Laguna],” Domingo told reporters.
The World Health Organization defined AFP as a sudden onset of paralysis or weakness in any part of the body of a child less than 15 years old.
Based on the latest report of the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau, there are 264 AFP cases recorded from January 1 to September 7, including the two confirmed cases of polio disease.
Diphtheria cases not alarming
The health official said that the number of cases of diphtheria disease is not yet alarming amid reports that it is also emerging in some parts of the country.
“So far, we haven’t had any outbreaks naman na meron continuous na spread or transmission ng diphtheria, [So far, we haven’t had any outbreaks nor continuous spread or transmission of diphtheria],” said Domingo.
As of the moment, the disease is not considered a big concern for the department, Domingo said. He explained that they usually recorded about 140 to 150 cases of diphtheria nationwide every year.
The WHO defined diphtheria as “an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheria, which primarily infects the throat and upper airways, and produces a toxin affecting other organs.”
“We do expect cases of diphtheria. We get them talaga every year. Like I said about 140 to 150 cases a year. Pero wala pa naman tayong nakikitang any trend na nakakatakot or threatening as of this time,” said Domingo.
[We do expect cases of diphtheria. We really get them every year. Like I said about 140 to 150 cases a year. But we have not seen any trend that is threatening as of this time.]
During a Senate hearing last Tuesday, DOH Family Health Office Officer-in-Charge Dr. Anthony Calibo claimed that diphtheria cases is also emerging in some parts of the country.
Based on the DOH-Epidemiology report, there are 167 diphtheria cases from January 1 to September 7.
Domingo underscored that the best way to prevent the said disease is through vaccination.
Budget cut no effect on immunization program
Meanwhile, Domingo assured that the P10-billion budget cut in the department’s budget in 2020 would not affect their immunization activities. The budget cut affects the health facilities and enhancement program of the department.
“Not the immunization program. Ang immunization program walang cut doon (there is no cut in the immunization program),” he said.
Domingo said that they are still in talks with the Department of Budget of Management (DBM) to restore some funds with the help of the Senate.
“Ang buong senado.. actually lahat naman are really promising especially Senator Bong Go, [who] is the chairman of the Committee on Health, talagang sabi nya magsesetup ng meeting with the department and DBM,” he said.
[The Senate, actually all are promising especially Senator Bong Go (who) is the chairman of the Committee on Health, he said that he will set up a meeting with the department (DOH) and DBM.]