ZAMBOANGA CITY, Jan. 15 (PIA) – The Department of Health (DOH) announced the conduct of a free deworming in all public schools this coming Jan. 27, but appealed to the public to stop the spread of false information regarding the drugs, which may lead to another “mass hysteria,” as what happened before in the region.
DOH Undersecretary Vicente Belizario Jr. told the media here last week that “false information caused the mass hysteria,” referring to text blasts and wrong reports that the deworming pills Albendazole that was administered to schoolchildren in Zamboanga del Norte last July were expired, which caused vomiting. As a result, parents panicked and brought their dewormed children to the hospitals.
Meanwhile in Pagadian City, media reports, which later turned out to be false, surfaced saying that ten children in nearby Dumingag municipality died after receiving the pills. In an Inquirer news article, the reporter was said to have issued a public apology for the misinformation.
‘Definitely no expired drugs, misinformation was malicious’
“It is not true, we do not administer expired drugs, there is no such thing,” Undersecretary Belizario stressed.
“It was malicious,” he added, referring to the misinformation, and was meant to destroy a national program meant to benefit thousands of schoolchildren.”
“No health worker in his or her right mind would ever give expired pills,” he emphasized.
Belizario shared that this experience was unique to the region. “The program was well-received in other regions,” he said.
The DOH had clarified that vomiting is one of the adverse effects of the drug, as well as headaches, stomachaches, dizziness and loose bowel movements (LBM), especially with children that already have thriving parasitic worms.
Very safe, effective drug
According to Belizario, Albendazole is a “very safe drug, proven to be safe.” It is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO), and has been mass-administered in Africa for more than 10 years.
Belizario said that the incidents of vomiting among children in some towns in this region may have resulted from not having received any deworming before. “Deworming gets rid of the worms, the vomiting was caused by the worms themselves.”
The DOH official appealed to the public to stop the spread of wrong information that could potentially hinder the implementation of “a very good program of the national government.”
If you hear of negative reports, please verify them with the DOH,” he appealed.
“Sa mga parents na natatakot magpa-deworm, mas matakot kayo sa bulate (to the parents who are afraid of the deworming, be more afraid of the worms),” Belizario explained, furthering that if worms continually thrive in the body, the children may not grow up properly. The children may be malnourished, and as a result, will perform poor in school, and will have low IQ.
During the national deworming day this Jan. 27, children aged 5-12 years old in public schools will be administered with the chewable Albendazole pill. Belizario assured that health workers will work hand-in-hand with teachers in the schools to administer the drugs, as well as monitor and immediately address any possible side effects.
The DOH advises the parents that the children should be well fed prior to being dewormed to avoid stomachaches. For children who develop the said side effects, parents are advised not to worry, as this is normal. However, if the effects such as vomiting still persist after 24 hours, they should visit the nearest health center or hospital for consultation.
To ensure that that the children are safe and free from worms, the DOH is conducting the deworming day twice a year, in January and July.
– Philippine Information Agency