Iloilo declares HFMD outbreak

By John Noel E. Herrera

The Iloilo Provincial Health Office (IPHO) declared an outbreak of the hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD) as cases breached the 1,000 mark.

IPHO head Dr. Maria Socorro Colmenares-Quinon confirmed the HFMD outbreak in the province after they recorded 1,115 cases so far this year, which is 2,004 percent higher compared to 53 cases reported in the same period in 2022.

“There is an outbreak of cases, may unusually high increase of cases man gid compared to previous years. Kung basihan naton ang definition sang outbreak or epidemic, by definition, nak-fit-in siya sa criteria,” she said.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APICE) defined an outbreak as a sudden rise in the number of cases of a disease, which may occur in a specific community or geographical area. An epidemic refers to the occurrence in communities or regions of cases, or other health-related events clearly over normal expectancy.

The disease commonly spreads through droplets or direct contact with nasal discharges, saliva, feces, and fluid from the rashes of an infected individual, while HFMD symptoms include fever that may last 24 to 48 hours, painful mouth sores and rashes, blisters on the hands and feet, sore throat, and loss of appetite.

Quiñon noted that the total cases so far already breached the province’s alert and epidemic threshold.

“Gin-compute naton in the last five years, ang aton alert and epidemic threshold, of course, na-breach gid ‘ya with the number of cases now,” she stressed.

The IPHO explained that an alert threshold is the level of disease occurrence that serves as an early warning for an epidemic, while an epidemic threshold is the level of disease occurrence above which an urgent response is required.

Data from IPHO indicated that in HFMD Morbidity Week (MW) 1, the province recorded 119 cases; 172 cases in MW 2; 284 cases in MW3; 333 cases in MW 4, and 207 cases in MW 5.

Despite the confirmation of an outbreak, Quiñon said that they would not declare a state of calamity, as the provincial government is on top of the situation and the cases are still manageable.

“To declare a state of calamity, indi na ‘ya si PHO lang ang makahambal. Of course, it has to go through a process, but as to the severity of these cases, the majority of them have already recovered,” Quiñon said.

“Most likely, ang Morbidity Week No. 5 nga 207 cases, amo na lang ibilin kay last week pa ini, and most likely gamay na lang ‘ni sa ila ang nabilin or not recovered,” she added.

Quiñon also said that the municipal health offices and the PHO have been working on the ground for the conduct of information education campaigns in villages and schools to prevent the spread of HFMD cases.

The IPHO said that HFMD has been detected in 483 barangays in the province, and only nine Iloilo towns remain HFMD-free – Dingle, Ajuy, Carles, Concepcion, Estancia, Guimbal, San Enrique, San Joaquin, and Sara.

The towns of Santa Barbara posted the highest number of cases with 100, followed by Barotac Viejo with 82; Badiangan (78); Alimodian (77); Calinog (69); Bingawan (65); Leon (49); Passi City (48); Dumangas (43), and Pavia with 42 cases, while the rest of the cases are spread in other towns.

Data from the Iloilo Provincial Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (PESU) showed that children one to 10 years old accounted for the most number of cases with 1,023 cases; followed by less than one-year-old with 66 cases; 11 to 20 years old with 20 cases; 31 to 40 years old with four cases, and 21 to 30 years old, and 41 years old and above with one case each.