Illustrative image. (Source: AFP)

Hanoi (VNA) – The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) has declared the country’s outbreak of dengue to be a national epidemic in the wake of 146,062 cases recorded from January to July 20 this year.

The declaration was made by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on August 6, shortly after a plenary meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Duque said the reported cases are 98 percent higher than the same period last year. Of the cases, 622 were confirmed death.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, as NDRRMC chair, issued a memorandum to all disaster response units across the country for the strict implementation of the national dengue epidemic declaration.

According to a DOH report, Western Visayas has the biggest number of cases at 23,330. Seven out of the 17 regions have exceeded the epidemic threshold of dengue for the past three consecutive weeks.

Duque said the total number of cases nationwide for a week alone, from July 14 to 20, is at 10,502, or 71 percent higher compared to the same period in 2018.

The Philippines has stood firm on its ban on the world’s first and only licensed dengue vaccine Dengvaxia made by French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur, following the deaths of dozens of children who were among the more than 700,000 people given shots in 2016 and 2017 in a government immunisation campaign.

In 2016, the country became the first in Asia to approve the use of Dengvaxia, but a year later, the vaccine was banned after Sanofi Pasteur announced that in rare cases, vaccinating people with no prior history of dengue infection could lead them to develop a more severe form of the disease.–VNA