DOH: Olongapo leptospirosis outbreak under control

Randy Datu

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Health Secretary Enrique Ona says 'urban rats that are the carriers' – found in houses and sewers – caused the leptospirosis ourbreak

URBAN RATS. These brought the leptospirosis outbreak following poor garbage collection after the heavy flooding in Olongapo, says Health Secretary Ona (in blue) during a visit at the James Gordon Memorial Hospital. Photo by Randy Datu/Rappler

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona visited this city Thursday, October 10, after the death toll from leptospirosis rose to 8, and number of infected residents climbed to nearly 300.

In a press conference after talking to patients and staff at the James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital, however, Ona said the outbreak was under control.

He cited the fact that there was only one additional patient admitted to the hospital, compared to droves the past few days.

The DOH “expects it to go down,” he said. “I’m glad to say that everything is under control here.”

(We reported that it was DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag who would check on the patients, based on an earlier advisory to the city government.)

The outbreak was caused by the slow cleanup of the city after it was heavily flooded and was placed under a state of calamity 3 weeks ago.

The health secretary said what caused the leptospirosis infections were “urban rats that are the carriers.” He said: “These are different from field mice. They are around our houses, and [ sewers], where they usually hide.”

He said that the rat infestation was probably caused by “poor garbage disposal and collection.”

Given the many storms still expected to hit the country, however, Ona said leptospirosis outbreak can be prevented by controlling the rat population, “especialy the carriers.”

Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino contradicted Ona’s statement, saying he believed the rats were washed down by the flashfloods from an abandoned mine in Mt. Redondo.

In a Facebook post, Paulino said that the abandoned Pili mine had “a million rats,” which presumably brought the lepto bacteria. 

While Ona sought to allay concerns that more residents would be infected, the Philippine Red Cross had erected tents to house incoming patients since the hospital was already congested. 

Edward Buena, Red Cross Olongapo City chapter administrator, said: “The hospital is already crammed with patients. They are already in the corridors. So we decided to erect at least two tents here, where we could tend to the patients.”

Buena said the Red Cross provided the Gordon memorial hospital with an additional 100 beds. Since the outbreak started on Monday, the Red Cross has deployed more than 20 volunteer nurses. – 


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