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Metro Manila

Diseases spreading at evacuation centers

August 22, 2013 8:54am
Diseases continued to hound residents of Manila who are staying in evacuation centers after they were forced to flee their homes in the wake of heavy monsoon rain and floods earlier this week.

As of Thursday, many evacuees, most of them children, were suffering from colds, fever and loose bowel movement, radio dzBB's Cecilia Villarosa reported.

The report said at least 111 evacuees at an evacuation center for residents of Baseco compound had fallen ill, most of them children aged 15 and below.

Some 464 families or 2,113 people are staying at the four-story evacuation facility as of Thursday morning, the report said.

Many still could not return to their homes because of the high tide, it added.

The city government has organized a medical mission to attend to the evacuees.

The Department of Health is monitoring the condition of over 35,000 families in evacuation centers, some of which are overcrowded.

Meanwhile, DOH Asec. Eric Tayag observed the segregation shceme being practiced in one center in Potrero, Malabon, was a good way of protecting senior citizens, the disabled, and pregnant women, who are more vulnerable to diseases at evacuation centers.

"Magandang practice yan kung saan yung mga senior citizen natin, may kapansanan, mga buntis ay mailagay natin sa bukod na kwarto sapagkat sila po ang delikado at may panganib sa kanilang kalusugan," Tayag said on "Unang Balita."

While fever, cough and colds are common in evacuation centers, the DOH is also anticipating cases of leptospirosis.

"Namigay na kami ng mahigit isang milyong tableta ng doxycycline," Tayag said.

Tayag warned that the medicine must only be taken after consulting with a doctor. Those who are pregnant as well as children below eight years old cannot take the medicine, he added.

Health risks, remedies

DOH said exposure to contaminated flood waters carries a "moderate to high risk of leptospirosis," a potentially serious bacterial disease associated with rat urine. Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle pain, intense headache. Leptospirosis can lead to meningitis, liver damage and renal failure, and in some cases, death. 

Tayag urged the public to avoid swimming in flood water, and to prevent children from doing the same. He stressed that swallowing contaminated water can result in sickness and disease, including leptospirosis. There is also the danger of parasites finding their way into the brain.

"Huwag niyong ibabasakali na kayo ay makakaligtas. Kaya yung mga matatanda nakikita niyo po yan, pagbawalan na natin sila. Tayo na po ang sumaway," Tayag said.

Apart from health risks, other dangers of swimming in flood water are drowning, electrocution, and injuries, he said. Tayag dispelled the belief that those who are used to wading in floodwater will not get sick.

"Unang una magkakaroon sila ng problema sa balat po niyan. Madumi po yan, hindi lang bacteria, mga chemical, toxins na di natin alam kasama po diyan," Tayag said, adding that swimming in flood water is like drinking from a toilet.

"Sigurado ho kami na may dumi ng tao yan, para hong kasilyas na rin yung ininom niyo pag nandiyan po kayo," he said.

Those bothered by alipunga (athlete's foot) can prepare a home remedy using one part white vinegar and four parts water. "Ibabad natin yung paa natin niyan. Pagkatapos natin malinis 'yun, mga kinse minutos, tapos patuyuin na natin 'yun. Matatanggal na po," Tayag said.

Meanwhile, Tayag urged those who plan to donate food to ensure that these will be consumed within four hours. "Kung hindi, meron na pong panganib sa kalusugan. Madali pong mapanis yan at yung bacteria tutubo yan," he said, suggesting that food items be labeled with expiration dates.

Tayag said that based on their rapid assessment survey in evacuation centers, bottled water was not needed in areas where tap water sources were safe. "Yung bottled water dinadala natin doon
sa mga lugar na hindi naman pipe water ang pinagkukunan o tap water sapagkat maaaring kontaminado kaya yung bottled water yun ang naaayon doon," he said.

If water appears cloudy, filter and boil the water. "Pag bumukal na po yan, rolling boil, orasan niyo ng tatlong minuto," he said. Chlorine bleach may also be used as an alternative. "Two drops noon sa isang litrong tubig. Let it stand for 30 minutes, disinfected na po yung tubig niyo," he said.

Several residents in low-lying and flood-prone areas in Manila were evacuated from their homes earlier this week due to heavy rain caused by the southwest monsoon enhanced by Tropical Storm Maring.

The weather started to improve shortly after Maring exited the Philippine area of responsibility Wednesday. — Carmela Lapeña /LBG, GMA News
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