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Published On: Sat, Feb 22nd, 2014

Philippines: Post-Typhoon Tacloban ripe for infectious disease outbreaks

Health officials in the Eastern Visayas report seeing increased numbers of three infectious diseases in the region of Tacloban, Leyte and other Typhoon Yolanda ravaged areas, according to a Philippine Information Agency report Friday.

Leyte, Philippines Image/© Eugene Alvin Villar, 2003. (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Seav)

Leyte, Philippines
Image/© Eugene Alvin Villar, 2003. (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Seav)

Although the cases of measles, dengue and chikungunya haven’t reached epidemic levels, Dr. Carmen Garado of the Dept of Health (DOH) says that in Tacloban they have recorded 470 suspected cases of dengue fever with two deaths since the first of the year.

Concerning measles, 180 cases with two deaths were likewise reported during the same period.

Health officials have stepped up mosquito fogging and are educating the public about removing or eliminating mosquito breeding sites.

In addition, the DOH has intensified its measles vaccination efforts.

During natural disasters like typhoons and flooding, most deaths occur due to trauma and drowning. But shortly after the initial damage, problems will be in provisions of clean water, sanitation, shelter, displacement and health care provisions.

In the aftermath of a storm like Yolanda, diarrheal diseases, leptospirosis, mosquito borne infections (like dengue and chikungunya) and respiratory illnesses are common place.

Measles or rubeola, is an acute highly communicable viral disease that is characterized by Koplik spots in the cheek or tongue very early in the disease. A couple of days later a red blotchy rash appears first on the face, and then spreads, lasting 4-7 days. Other symptoms include fever, cough and red watery eyes. The patient may be contagious from four days prior to the rash appearance to four days after rash appearance.

The disease is more severe in infants and adults. Complications from measles which is reported in up to 20% of people infected include; seizures, pneumonia, deafness and encephalitis.

The single best way to prevent measles is through vaccination.

Dengue fever is an infectious disease carried by mosquitoes and caused by any of four related dengue viruses. Thisdisease used to be called “break-bone fever” because it sometimes causes severe joint and muscle pain that feels like bones are breaking.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates there may be 50–100 million dengue infections worldwide every year. However, new research from the University of Oxford and the Wellcome Trust, using cartographic approaches, estimate there to be 390 million dengue infections per year worldwide.

Image/CDC

Image/CDC

There are three types of dengue fever in order of less severe to most: the typical uncomplicated dengue fever, dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHS) and dengue shock syndrome (DSS).

There is not a vaccine for dengue fever. There is no treatment for dengue, just treat the symptoms.

According to the World Health Organization, Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease first described during an outbreak in southern Tanzania in 1952.  The name ‘chikungunya’ derives from a root verb in the Kimakonde language, meaning “to become contorted” and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.

Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pain. Other common signs and symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually ends within a few days or weeks.

Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints.

There is no treatment for chikungunya and no preventive vaccine for the viral disease. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page and the Outbreak News This Week Radio Show page.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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