Residents warned vs swimming in Davao River amid polio outbreak

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Davao City Health Officer Josephine Villafuerte asked Dabawenyos to refrain from swimming in the Davao River, and possibly public swimming pools, after the river tested positive for the presence of the poliovirus.

As this developed, Villafuerte said the city health office has intensified its campaign against polio, following the declaration of an outbreak by the Department of Health (DOH).

Villafuerte said the presence of the poliovirus in the Davao River was confirmed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), which conducted sampling and testing on August 22.

"I immediately called up a meeting with various stakeholders when we were informed about the confirmation. The meeting was aimed at tackling steps to prevent the spread of the virus in the city," she said.

Villafuerte said she told stakeholders to conduct an information drive against swimming in the river and possibly, public swimming pools.

Villafuerte said that the virus can be acquired through infected water like the Davao River and even public swimming pools.

"We gathered all the resort owners, barangay captains of coastal barangays, and those near the river banks to inform them of how they can help in the prevention of the spread of the virus," she said.

"People should avoid swimming in the rivers and public swimming pools, they should always wash their hands and ensure that they have their own bathrooms, get vaccinated, and maintain proper hygiene," she added.

Community checkup

Villafuerte said health workers are also going around villages to administer the anti-polio vaccine and to find out if any resident had recently caught the virus.

"We've been checking the entire community if there are confirmed cases of polio virus, so far there is none," she said.

Although there is no reported polio case in the city, Villafuerte said that the public should remain vigilant and follow the preventive measures they have been batting for.

"There is no age limit when it comes to polio virus, one should really be vaccinated for him to be safe against the disease," she said.

The DOH on Thursday, September 19, declared a polio epidemic after it recorded a case of the disease in Lanao del Sur. This is the country's first confirmed case after 19 years of being polio-free.

Aside from the confirmed case, the declaration was also triggered by environment samples in Manila and Davao that tested for poliovirus. 

'Tap water safe to drink'

The Davao City Water District (DCWD) on Saturday, September 21, assured city residents that the water it has been serving to its 224,000 concessionaires is safe from the poliovirus.

DCWD deputy spokesperson Jovana Duhaylungsod made the assurance following the advisory from Davao health officials.

Duhaylungsod said the sources of the drinking water that DCWD supplies to its concessioners were not part of the Davao River or far from the poliovirus-contaminated river.

“The public has nothing to worry about.... Our water quality complies with the Philippine National Standards for Drinking Water,” she said.

Duhaylungsod added that "it is impossible for the poliovirus to penetrate the pipes" of their water system, which are buried deep in the ground. –