I got this from Dr. Jack Estuart, a pediatrician here in Davao City: the word epidemic comes from the Greek “epi” meaning “upon” and “demos” meaning “the people.” Epidemiology, Dr. Jack said, is “the study of disease occurrence in populations. Occurrence means the distribution (data, quantified) and more importantly the analysis of its determinants.”
The context of our online conversation was the lack of data and information being provided by the Department of Health (DOH) in Region 11 specifically and DOH national in general. For the past three months the agency has been giving out daily updates but only in terms of new infections, deaths, and recoveries. It doesn’t give context. It does give out patient information, but even that is so lacking in detail that it is almost unusable.
The chart below on the history of exposure of the patients (as collated from Facebook posts made by DOH 11) shows just how much we do not know about the pandemic in Davao Region:
We can see on the left side of the pie chart that more than half (52 percent) of the cases are still being investigated (162), or are of unknown travel and exposure history (28), or are from suspected cases (37). In only 48 percent of the cases does DOH 11 know where the patients got their infection from.
And even in those with known exposure history, DOH 11 identifies only 85 infection sources. The rest are either unidentified (no case number give in 61 cases even though they are confirmed cases) or are generically listed as “Matina Gallera” (30), “Manila” (19), and “Other Place” — Iligan City (1), Zamboanga (1), Singapore (2), Maco Gallera (1), Australia (1), and even graduation (1) and wedding (1). Two are left as unspecified.
There’s a lot we don’t know, and while DOH 11 knows at least some of these unknowns, it is not sharing the data properly. One thing that would be of great help is if if could provide even just the code number of the source of infection so that we can establish a chain and find out the relation between the patients.
Until then, we can only really guess how the pandemic is spreading.