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Published On: Wed, Nov 13th, 2013

Philippines DOH Sec. Ona: ‘Risk for diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, leptospirosis and influenza outbreaks remain high’

In the wake of the destruction from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) announced in a press release Nov. 13, the deployment of medical teams, both domestic and international, to provide emergency and basic medical and surgical services to affected areas in Eastern Visayas.

There are now at least 200 DOH personnel in Tacloban, which is the base of health operations for the whole region.

Image/Video Screen Shot

Image/Video Screen Shot

DOH Secretary Enrique Ona announced that several cargoes of medicines, supplies and equipment have now reached Tacloban via Cebu and Catbalogan, Samar.

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

Concerning infectious diseases, the DOH said, “There are no reported outbreaks yet. But risk for diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, leptospirosis and influenza outbreaks remain high.”

Secretary Ona reiterated that dead bodies will not cause outbreaks but certain precautions should be observed by body handlers to prevent spread off any disease. He urged authorities to retrieve dead bodies, and arrange for decent burial including proper identification.

What infectious diseases are a threat to this vulnerable population?

The first thing to look at will be waterborne diseases. Diarrheal diseases are the number one cause of illness and death in emergencies like typhoons and hurricanes that produce massive flooding.

Inadequate quality and quantity of water, substandard and insufficient sanitation facilities and overcrowding are the problems.

Common sources of diarrheal disease (bacterial, parasitic or viral) outbreaks are polluted drinking water sources (from contaminated surface waters getting into incompletely sealed wells), shared water containers, water that is stored and contaminated by focally soiled hands and contaminated foods.

As Dr. Rafael Castillo noted in a column last year in the Philippine Daily Inquirer after Typhoon Saola , other diseases that can be contracted via the floodwaters include wound infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, and ear, nose and throat infections.

Leptospirosis, which is endemic in the Philippines, may be a health issue in the weeks following the typhoons. Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that can be transmitted by contact with animal-urine contaminated water.

Flooding facilitates the spread of the organism, because of the amount and proximity of rodents to humans on shared higher ground. It may be several weeks before symptoms appear before we know if this disease is an issue.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook 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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  1. Philippines: Health officials verifying deaths due to tetanus and leptospirosis - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] Related story:  Philippines DOH Sec. Ona: ‘Risk for diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, leptospirosis and influenza ou… […]

  2. Philippines DOH Sec. Ona: ‘Risk for diarrhea, respiratory illnesses … – The Global Dispatch | Diarrhea -Causes and Treatment says:

    […] Philippines DOH Sec. Ona: 'Risk for diarrhea, respiratory illnesses …The Global DispatchBut risk for diarrhea, respiratory illnesses, leptospirosis and influenza outbreaks remain high.” Secretary Ona reiterated that dead bodies will not cause outbreaks but certain precautions should be observed by body handlers to prevent spread off any …DOH: No outbreaks yet but diseases expected to riseSun.Starall 3 news articles » […]

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