Another typhoon threatens Philippines

Stagnant water causes disease outbreak

Leptospirosis is a potentially fatal flood-borne diseas. PHILIPPINES – Typhoon Santi (international code name Mirinae) entered Philippine territory last Wednesday (October 28). The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Santi would cause rains during the All Saints’ weekend.

“Santi is expected to hit either Central or Southern Luzon with the storm likely to become a ‘super typhoon’ as it is now packing winds of 120 kph,” said PAGASA’s chief weather forecaster Nathaniel A. Cruz.

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In preparation for the new storm, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto C. Torres, Jr. said that the NDCC will “focus on pre-emptive evacuation as a means for disaster mitigation,” and that help would be extended to local disaster coordinating councils in the “formulation of search and rescue plans at the provincial, city and municipal levels.”

Mr. Torres said that aside from moving heavy equipment, the council is identifying possible evacuation centres in storm-threatened areas. 

Meanwhile, damage from tropical storm Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma) had reached P38 billion, the NDCC said in its update on October 28. The death toll remained at 929.

Leptospirosis outbreak

In a related development, an outbreak of a water-borne disease in the Philippines highlights the inability of communities to cope in the after effects of the recent storms. One month after Typhoon Ondoy dumped unprecedented amounts of rain that flooded much of Metro Manila and its nearby provinces, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos are still suffering from its aftermath, particularly from an outbreak of a water-borne disease called leptospirosis. As of Oct. 27, the Health department recorded 2,172 cases, including 167 deaths nationwide.

The Department of Health (DoH) is monitoring leptospirosis cases in three towns in Pangasinan province after it declared an outbreak in three towns in neighbouring La Union province in the Ilocos Region.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said yesterday that an outbreak has been declared in the towns of Aringay, Bauang and Naguillan due to the increase in the number of cases in the disease.

“Three other towns are on the DoH watch list: Rosales, Mangaldan, Binmaley in Pangasinan,” he added.

Epidemiologists and experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) he said, are in town to look into the bacteria strain that is causing the disease.

The WHO’s four-member team will work with and advise local officials on combating leptospirosis.

“They have already commenced field trips, looking at hospitals and taking in the situation there, including at evacuation centres,” said Adam Craig, a spokesman for the WHO Western Pacific regional office based in Manila.

Authorities have handed out millions of doses of antibiotics to contain the disease, but Craig warned the threat of it spreading would remain as long as stagnant water remained in the affected areas.

Earlier, the Health department declared an outbreak of the disease in Marikina City.

Health officials said that with floods brought by Ondoy and Pepeng not expected to subside for a few months, the DoH will continue to closely monitor both leptospirosis and dengue cases.

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease transmitted to humans through contact of wounds to water or soil that has been contaminated with animal urine. Left untreated, the disease can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress and, in some cases, even death.

Kapamilya, shower ka na!

Meanwhile, over 1,000 typhoon evacuees at the Ultra Stadium in Pasig City were treated to free shower services offered by the DZMM radio station and ABS-CBN’s Sagip Kapamilya on October26.

Most of the evacuees who lined up for a free shower had not taken proper baths for two or three weeks.

The free shower project, dubbed Kapamilya, Shower Na!, aims to prevent the spread of disease due to the lack of hygiene facilities in evacuation centres.

Officially launched on October 12, the shower project allows 12 evacuees at a time to bathe in special cubicles that were built atop a 20-foot truck. Shower areas are partitioned for both sexes, with 6 cubicles for men and 6 for women. Evacuees are given 5 to 7 minutes each to shower inside the cubicles that are equipped with large saucer-shaped showerheads that pump water from 2 detachable water tanks atop the flatbed truck.


Typhoon victims were also provided with soft towels and a hygiene kit containing soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo and deodorant.

“Bakit ka magpapakabaho pa, eh, puwede ka namang maligo na? (Why do you have to stay smelly when you can take a bath?)” said the originator of the shower project, ABS-CBN news anchor Ted Failon.

Failon had previously raised funds for a portable toilet project in evacuation centres, through his current affairs radio show Tambalang Failon at Sanchez.

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