Aug. 7 (UPI) -- The Philippines declared a national dengue epidemic as the country battles a disease that has seen nearly twice as many cases reported as last year.
The Department of Health on Tuesday said there have been 146,062 recorded cases of the mosquito-borne disease in 2019, a number 98 percent higher than the same period in 2018.
The disease has killed 622 people this year, it said.
Western Visayas has been the hardest hit, recording 23,330 cases as of July 20, followed by Calabarzon with 16,515 and the Zamboanga Peninsula with 12,317 reported cases, according to government data.
The national epidemic declaration comes after seven of the country's 17 regions exceeded the epidemic threshold for dengue fever for the past three consecutive weeks while several others also exceeded the epidemic limit for the first time.
"It is important that a national epidemic be declared in these area to identify where a localized response is needed, and to enable the local government units to use their Quick Response Fund to address the epidemic situation," said Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque.
The country has also been battling outbreaks of measles as mistrust of vaccinations has grown following a 2017 scandal over Dengvaxia, a dengue fever vaccine administered to hundreds of thousands before the completion of clinical trials and whose side effects weren't publicized.
At least 31 Dengvaxia-related complaints have been filed with the Department of Justice, including one early this year concerning the death of a doctor.
The country's Department of Justice in February indicted its former health secretary and nine other department officials with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide in connection to the drug's purchase and use.