BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
Corridors of hospitals in Metro Manila were crowded in July through September this year as dengue hemorrhagic fever struck down hundreds. TV footages showed stricken kids sharing beds as the hospitals already overstretched their capacities.
In Iloilo, dengue cases are less this year compared to last year’s but just the same, at its peak in June – August, public hospitals were also filled to the corridors.
The magnitude though did not approximate the previous year’s when district hospitals like the Don Pedro Trono Memorial in Guimbal town, had to erect tents to shelter those rejected from corridors.
There is no medicine for dengue and the only cure for the ailment, spread by the mosquitoes Aedes aegyptii and Aedes albopictus, thus far is early detection and intervention to prevent shock from dehydration and low blood platelet. Health authorities say medical intervention aims to raise the patient’s resistance through intravenous (IV) fluids, proper diet and vitamins supplementation as dengue is a “self-containing disease”.
Once the patient reaches stage four, where his/her body fluids are severely drained and his/her blood platelets down, recovery is nil. In other words, the patient dies.
A weed that grows wild around called “tawa-tawa” or “gatas-gatas” raises hope for fast recovery of dengue patients including those in advance stages, a study done by high school students in Cagayan de Oro tells us.
Tawa-tawa (Euphorbia hirta L) catapulted students of St. Mary School namely, namely Frances Mae Gumapon, Maria Kenosis Emmanuelle Lachica, Melissa Tamara Argayoso and Marlo Karlo Carrasco to the championship at the competition organized by the College of Agriculture of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City (http://aggies.xu.edu.ph/index.php?Itemid=68&id=103&option=com_content&task=view).
Their experiment showed that tawa-tawa extract increased the platelet level of white mice (Mus musculus). Their study was conducted in 2008 which confirmed growing public belief that tawa-tawa could help dengue patients recover fast.
In 2009, the only son of lawyer Raul Tiosayco, municipal legal officer of Guimbal, Iloilo down with dengue that reached stage three, too emaciated by dehydration. A friend gave him tawa-tawa weeds with instruction to decoction it. His family scrounged for the plant for boiling and the tea of it delivered to his son’s hospital bed. The boy recovered in two days.
Yours truly has a similar experience in 1998. Our five-year old son had dengue after a week of lingering illness that he spent at home. Our physician kept in touch with us to monitor his health bulletin. His fever fluctuated from high to low; when it’s down our gladness was short-lived as a few hours later, it soot up again. The boy grew weak and threw up several times. We cajoled him to drink water and eat solid which he threw up again. When we told the physician there were tiny black strips accompanying the puke, she told us to rush the kid to the hospital.
We had wild imaginations seeing our boy vibrant a week earlier but whose energy was slipping away from his shrinking body. It had a happy ending though. His hospitalization was timely. In four days, he was discharged from the hospital. He was already chasing a ball at the corridor when I fetched him and his mother at the hospital. We did not know tawa-tawa then.
Though doctors hesitate to formally endorse tawa-tawa’s curing property, they nevertheless tolerate parents who applied its tea on dengue patients confined in hospitals.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has tested tawa-tawa and found similar results. Health secretary Enrique Ona is timid: he notes that the plant’s tea merely “appears” to rehydrate dengue patients and that the findings were only “preliminary”.
Twenty years ago, one became immune to dengue virus after infection. Today, there is no guarantee. One may still be stricken again as the microorganism mutated into three deadlier strains.
October is supposed to be the period when dengue cases already tapered down as the rains stop and mosquito breeding grounds dry up.
However, dengue cases remain unabated because the “vectors” (mosquitoes) still enjoy two factors for continued growth, one, the intermittent rains that provide them breeding grounds, and the uninterrupted chain of rice cropping that depend heavily on chemical inputs that in turn, wipe out natural predators like spiders and dragon flies.