Diarrhea, lepto outbreaks seen after 'Pablo'

MANILA, Philippines – The health department is expecting a possible outbreak of diarrhea and leptospirosis in areas hit by Typhoon “Pablo” (Bopha).

Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said diarrhea cases will likely rise this weekend, to be followed by leptospirosis cases next week.

In a press conference on Friday, December 7, Tayag said the department is assessing health facilities in the typhoon-hit areas in Mindanao. Water is an immediate concern.

“There is not enough water supplies in the evacuation centers and most likely, the water sources there are already contaminated by garbage and human waste,” Tayag said.

“A person actually needs at least 20 liters of water per day and that will be for drinking, bathing and other needs to maintain sanitation.”

In a briefing on Friday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDDRMC) said government is sending potable water and water filtration systems to the devastated areas.

Tayag said another problem is the lack of sanitary toilet facilities, and the garbage in evacuation centers.

He said the department is assessing the affected communities, and deployed health workers for anti-measles vaccination.  

“We want to know what is needed and what we can still give the victims,” Tayag said.

The official said groups planning to conduct medical missions must coordinate with the Health Department first to avoid confusion.

“Baka nageexpect sila na may matutulugan sa area or may magagamit na sasakyan, medyo magulo pa doon.” (They might expect to have a place to sleep in or a car to use in the affected areas, those places are not yet in order.)

Mass graves discouraged

Tayag also discouraged officials and residents from burying bodies in mass graves, saying these can cause more health problems. 

He added that the victims’ relatives must be allowed “to grieve for their dead for closure.”

“We don’t encourage mass burials because that’s not needed. We also need to give dignity to the dead,” Tayag said.

Pablo, which hit Mindanao on Tuesday, December 4, has left over 400 people dead as of Friday, December 7. The NDRRMC said the typhoon affected 5.1 million people. The death toll is still expected to rise as search times find more bodies washed away or buried under the rubble. 

New Bataan town in Compostela Valley and Boston in Davao Oriental were the worst hit areas. President Benigno Aquino III visited the sites on Friday, vowing government help in recovery efforts and disaster prevention.

Search, rescue and retrieval operations continue, with the military, Coast Guard and police deploying assets.

Some areas remain isolated, with government planning to build temporary bridges in the short-term and rebuilding the damaged ones in the long-term. 

Hundreds of thousands of survivors crammed into overcrowded shelters Friday, braving the stench of corpses. – Rappler.com