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DoH on ‘high alert’ for virus outbreaks

Posted on: October 28, 2009

DoH on ‘high alert’ for virus outbreaks

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 15:38:00 10/28/2009

Filed Under: Health, Flood

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health is now on “high alert” to address the leptospirosis outbreak in areas that were flooded by tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng, its top official said Wednesday.

Since October 1, the DoH recorded 167 casualties out of the 2,172 Filipinos infected by leptospirosis – thrice the number of cases recorded last year, according to Health secretary Francisco Duque III.

From 177 leptospirosis cases reported between October 1 and 12, the department’s tally rose to 1,000 cases on October 15 and leaped to 1,963 on October 21, the period immediately after the floods caused by Ondoy and Pepeng.

DoH declared outbreaks in certain parts of Pangasinan and La Union, in addition to several parts of the Metro such as Marikina and Laguna that remain flooded and at risk for leptospirosis.

This covers the towns of Mangaldan, Binmaley and Rosales in La Union and Arringay, Bawang and Naguilian in Pangasinan, said Duque.

“We declared a leptospirosis outbreak–not nationwide–but in areas that have no recorded cases of the disease in previous years. Having just one case is a factor in declaring an outbreak if a place had zero cases before, based on our guidelines,” said Duque.

Duque added these areas, which remain submerged in floods, puts more people at risk for leptospirosis, a bacteria that thrives in murky flood waters and enters the skin even without cuts or wounds.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has sent six epidemiologists and leptospirosis experts in Pangasinan on Wednesday to determine the bacteria strain causing the outbreak.

“The experts tapped from the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) will provide technical assistance in the surveillance, epidemiological and clinical care of those infected by the disease,” said Dr. Shin Young-Soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific region, which includes the Philippines.

“After gathering the strains of the bacteria, we will ship them to out laboratory in Brisbane for further studies,” added Young-Soo.

Over the next three weeks, the WHO will send four more experts to the above-mentioned areas to conduct hospital and community investigation to further learn the situation in the affected communities.

In addition, WHO aims to collect $3.6 million to assist the country in battling leptospirosis and Filipinos who still remain in evacuation centers, a month after Ondoy and Pepeng flooded Luzon.

DoH is also on alert for possible outbreaks of other water-borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever, diarrhea, dengue and pneumonia that can easily be transmitted in congested evacuation centers, said Duque during a visit to evacuation centers in Muntinlupa and Binan, Laguna.

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