By Pia Bonalos
The country's fight against dengue has just gone digital, with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) launching a dengue vector surveillance website that shows mosquito populations in schools nationwide.
"Ang programa natin ay vector reduction in, sabihin na nating, vulnerable places and school is one [Our program aims at vector reduction in, let's say, vulnerable places and school is one]," DOST Secretary Mario Montejo said.
A visit to the website – oltrap.pchrd.dost.gov.ph – shows a map of the Philippines dotted with white and red balloons.
A white balloon over a school indicates a 1:20 mosquito index, which means the school has very few mosquitoes.
A red balloon means the school has a dense mosquito population.
It is ovicidal-larvicidal traps, or OL traps, like these in a school in Quezon City – installed in 2010 – that are used to keep track of mosquito populations.
An OL trap has a small wooden paddle and pellets in a container that looks like a plastic drinking glass. It is designed to attract mosquitoes to lay their eggs on the paddle.
School employees count the number of traps that contain mosquito eggs and larvae every week and report this to the DOST by text message.
"Kaya kapag hindi na mabuhay ang kitikiti, mababwasan ang lamok. Ang tawag naman natin doon ay vector reduction.... Mabawasan natin ang lamok,mababawasan natin ang pagkakaroon ng dengue [So when it comes to a point when the larvae cannot survive, we reduce the number of mosquitoes. That's what we call vector reduction... If we reduce the number of mosquitoes, then we reduce the incidence of dengue]," Montejo said.
With weekly updates on mosquito populations in schools, local government units could then decide how best to intervene.
Cases of dengue fever rise during the rainy season, which coincides with the start of classes.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said this would make school children more vulnerable to the illness.
From January 1 to June 8 this year, the Department of Health recorded 42,207 dengue cases, with 193 deaths, which is 1 percent lower compared to the cases recorded in same period last year.
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Pia Hontiveros, Chief Correspondent and anchor of Solar Network News and News.Ph, presents the Solar News and Current Affairs year-ender special: On the Cusp of Change. A deafening silence, not out of a loss for words but a grief that cannot be spoken, for thousands lost to a super typhoon ... A muted pain from a powerful tremor that violently shook the heart of the nation ... An unspeakable anger over pork barrel that fueled a political maelstrom ... These and other stories from the extraordinary challenging year that was.