By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
MORE than 50 percent of schoolchildren in Iloilo province have parasitic worm infection, according to the Department of Health–Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) in Western Visayas.
John Den Billones, Medical Technologist and Program Coordinator of DOH-CHD 6, said Iloilo Province has the highest number of prevalence rate in Helminth or parasitic worm infections in the whole region.
“Sa region, 26 percent ang prevalence rate but ang may pinakadamo sa Iloilo Province with more than 50 percent of the school children. Ang mga nearby provinces only less than 50 percent lang ila prevalence rate,” he said.
As part of the National Deworming Month, DOH is advocating for an increased national and provincial mass drug administration coverages of soil-transmitted Helminthiasis to at least 85%.
In July 2018, Billones noted a 67% deworming coverage for Western Visayas.
Billones said that this year DOH is targeting children 1-18 years old, out of school youth, and private schooled children who are more at risk of Helminth infections.
“Our target is 1-18 children, whether they are enrolled in school or not. We are also encouraging private school children because usually deworming programs are only subjected to public schools,” he said.
He lamented the lack of awareness among parents, children, and other stakeholders as one of the challenges in the Integrated Helminth Control Program (IHCP) of the DOH.
“The challenge of this program is that it’s always very difficult to increase the deworming coverage of our region especially because of the lack of awareness and information of parents, children, and stakeholders,” he said.
Soil-transmitted Helminth Infections are caused by ingestion of eggs from contaminated soil (Ascaris and Trichuris) or skin penetration by larvae from the soil (particularly hookworms), according to DOH.
DOH cited the poor environmental sanitation (open defecation) and poor personal hygiene (dirty hands) as the major factors that promote parasitic worm infections.
Helminth infections can cause growth stunting, decreased physical activity, and poor mental and physical activity which can affect school performance.
Meanwhile, DOH urged the different stakeholders to join them in advocating for its deworming program and emphasized the importance of good sanitation practices.
“The deworming program is safe, free, and should be taken twice a year. We also advocate safe water, proper sanitation and personnel hygiene together with health education through the help of teachers, school nurse, and health workers,” Billones said.