In a follow-up to the outbreak of ill schoolkids in in Zamboanga del Norte province who took the deworming medication, Albendazole, Philippines health officials say the illnesses are due to “normal” side effects seen with the anti-parasitic drug.

Republic of the Philippines

Last week, some 1,000 children were taken ill with  vomiting, stomach ache, and dizziness after taking the drug during the semiannual program, “Oplan Goodbye Bulate”, which is designed to eliminate intestinal parasites in the kids.

And the number of students effected has climbed. Dr. Ruby Constantino, DOH 9 assistant regional director, said they have officially gathered the total number of students hospitalized in Zamboanga del Sur (1,249), in Zamboanga del Norte (2,800) and in Zamboanga City (17).

Of the approximately 8.1 million children receiving Albendazole, some 3,600 kids experienced side effects.

Vicente Belizario, Department of Health undersecretary said that the side effects of Albendazole are not life threatening and essentially, the risk outweighs the benefit. ‘We have two options, the undersecretary said, “Don’t submit your child to deworming so he won’t experience the side effects or treat his worms but in the process he may have side effects.”

Concerning the previous report of expired medicine, Constantino said an outside individual came in and handed expired tablets to one of the mothers; however, this was not the same lot as was being administered by the DOH.

Albendazole treats a number of helminth (worm) infections to include Capillariasis, Cutaneous larva migrans, Common roundworms (ascariasis), Hookworms (ancylostomiasis and necatoriasis), Pinworms (enterobiasis or oxyuriasis), StrongyloidiasisTapeworms (taeniasis), Trichostrongyliasis and Whipworms (trichuriasis).

Abdominal or stomach pain is a common side effect and dizziness is a less common side effect.

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