Albay

Diarrhea outbreak kills 3 people, downs several dozen villagers on Albay island

Rhaydz Barcia

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Diarrhea outbreak kills 3 people, downs several dozen villagers on Albay island

SAMPLE. A health worker takes waters samples on Rapu-Rapu Island as part of efforts to curb diarrhea cases and prevent the spread of cholera.

Albay Provincial Health Office/William Sabater

The outbreak is traced back to unsafe drinking water from undeveloped and spring sources on Rapu-Rapu Island

ALBAY, Philippines – An outbreak of diarrhea in the island town of Rapu-Rapu in Albay province, has so far resulted in three deaths and affected many other villagers.

At least one of those tested was confirmed to have contracted the pathogen Vibrio cholerae, which is responsible for cholera.

The source of the outbreak has been traced back to unsafe drinking water from undeveloped and spring sources on the island, said William Sabater, Albay provincial health office (PHO) sanitary engineer. 

Over two weeks, three people succumbed to severe diarrhea, while more than 40 others were afflicted with severe diarrhea in the neighboring villages of Manila and Gaba.

Sabater said the alarm was raised when the barangay chairperson of Manila reported on July 19, that 10 residents of his barangay had been hospitalized in Legazpi City due to diarrhea. 

Clothing, Hat, Person
DISTRIBUTE. Albay health workers distribute clean and safe drinking water to the people of Manila village on Rapu-Rapu Island as part of efforts to curb diarrhea cases and prevent the spread of cholera. -courtesy of Albay Provincial Health Office/William Sabater

A 32-year-old woman lost her life on the same day, and a 73-year-old senior citizen succumbed to severe dehydration the following day.

Officials from the Albay Provincial Health Office (PHO) launched an investigation, and their findings indicated that the water sources in Rapu-Rapu were unsafe for drinking. 

Water samples were submitted and tested by the Bicol South Luzon-Sub National Reference Laboratory-Molecular Lab (BSL-SNRL) for examination, and initial results confirmed that the water sources were unsafe.

Health officials also sent water samples from the island town to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila for a thorough examination. A week after conducting the rectal swab examination on 11 patients, one of them tested positive for Vibrio cholerae, which causes cholera.

“Cholera is highly communicable. It is an alarming waterborne disease and highly contagious. In 1995, there was also a cholera epidemic in the Bicol region, which originated in Rapu-Rapu,” Sabater said.

The PHO is currently working to contain and address the diarrhea cases in Barangay Manila. However, a separate diarrhea outbreak has occurred in the neighboring village of Gaba, also located in Rapu-Rapu Island town. A four-year-old girl lost her life to a similar outbreak on January 26.

Sabater urged the public not to self-medicate if they experience symptoms like rice watery discharge, as this could be indicative of the disease.

He cited a case in 1995 when Bicol faced a cholera epidemic that originated on Rapu-Rapu Island due to unsafe drinking water. 

In response to the situation, the provincial government of Albay, through the provincial health office, delivered potable drinking water to Barangay Manila. 

The PHO is also working to contain the outbreak and is closely monitoring neighboring villages for any signs of further spread. However, they remain cautious about declaring a cholera outbreak, given the potential adverse economic implications such a declaration could have.

Authorities are planning to convene a meeting with all village chieftains in Rapu-Rapu to agree on effective solutions to prevent future outbreaks and ensure access to safe drinking water.

The islands of Albay have faced the recurring problem of severe diarrhea cases due to poor and unsafe water sources. Previous efforts to tackle water scarcity have been met with delays, but there have been initiatives to construct efficient water systems in the region. – Rappler.com

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