Friday, July 20, 2012

DOH, WHO probe cholera outbreak in Catanduanes

MANILA, Philippines - A team of disease experts from the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) is now investigating the cholera outbreak in Catanduanes. DOH Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag said yesterday the team was tasked to determine the causes of the cholera outbreak and why cases have not been contained until now. “We assembled a combined WHO and DOH team to know the actual situation. There are cholera outbreaks that last for weeks, months and even years. We want to know the behavior of cholera in Catanduanes,” he said. Tayag said cholera cases have surfaced in Catanduanes since last January. As of July 12, a total of 2,046 cases, including 14 deaths, have been recorded in all 11 municipalities but most of the cases came from Virac, San Andres and Pandan towns. “From the time of reckoning, it started in January so it has been seven months… It happened before in some parts of Pangasinan sometime in 2008 when outbreaks lasted for months,” he added. If the cholera outbreak in Catanduanes lasts longer, Tayag said the affected residents would have a hard time coping. “The people will be pitiful because there will be repeated infection,” he said. Contaminated water sources were found to have caused the cholera outbreak. Most residents get their water supply from deep wells because it is impractical to put up a water system as the houses in many areas are scattered. “We want to know what is really causing the long period of infection. Has it something to do with the environment or hygiene? Are the interventions done there not sufficient? Is the water still contaminated? Have they stopped doing the chlorination? These are the things we have to find out,” Tayag said. The Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes cholera as “an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.” In its website, the center said the infection is often mild or without symptoms but can sometimes be severe. “Approximately one in 20 (five percent) infected persons will have severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these people, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours,” it added. - By Sheila Crisostomo