Diarrhea outbreak hits Balabac town in southern Palawan

Keith Anthony S. Fabro
Diarrhea outbreak hits Balabac town in southern Palawan
Dr. Mary Ann Navarro says the outbreak is due to the presence of E.coli or Escherichia coli bacteria from human and animal waste in the town’s water table

PALAWAN, Philippines –  A diarrhea outbreak which has gone on for two months now has killed 4 people and downed 176 others in the island town of Balabac in the southernmost part of Palawan, according to provincial health officer Dr. Mary Ann Navarro.

Navarro said the figures reaching her office have been recorded since the outbreak hit the town last December 25. It was apparently due to the presence of E. coli, or Escherichia coli bacteria from human and animal waste, in the town’s water table.

“Almost all of the water sources in Balabac proper are not fit for drinking after they tested positive for coliform,” she said in an interview this week with local newspaper, Palawan News.

She traced the water contamination to poor sanitation as surveys showed around 30% of all residents, specifically in the severely affected barangays of Salang, Melville, Ramos Island and Agutaya, have no access to toilets.

Navarro, however, said the figures reported to her are not final yet as they are still awaiting the official report from the Municipal Health Office. “What we know about is the 180 cases with 4 deaths,” she said.

Patients are now being treated at the rural health unit in Balabac, and at the Southern Palawan Provincial Hospital in Brooke’s Point in mainland Palawan.

While poor communications signal in the remote island town proves a challenge in getting reports from the ground, she said the provincial government has already responded since the onset of outbreak last December.

The provincial health officer said they already held information campaigns on water, sanitation and hygiene. They have also continuously distributed anti-diarrheal drugs and the purification tablet Aquatabs to treat water for drinking. 

Navarro’s office is validating reports that the number of deaths has climbed to 10 and that 299 residents have already been affected by the outbreak as of Monday, February 12.

“We need to confirm the deaths if they’re really due to diarrhea or due to other medical conditions,” she said.

Marine Battalion Landing Team-4, which is stationed in Balabac and serves as part of the first responders in times of emergencies, relayed the figure to the media. 

Meanwhile, this is not the first time such a health crisis affected the province in less than a year.

Last September 2017, a diarrhea outbreak also hit Quezon town in southern Palawan for the same cause. Records showed 4 people died and over 600 hospitalized before it was declared under control the following month. – Rappler.com

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