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Flood diseases killing survivors of ‘Sendong’

/ 09:59 PM January 05, 2012

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—A disease borne by the floods that had killed hundreds here and in Iligan City last Dec. 17 is killing people who had survived the disaster that struck the two cities at the height of Tropical Storm “Sendong.”

At least 15 people are now dead because of leptospirosis and 200 others are stricken ill and taken to hospitals.

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Authorities said the rising death toll from leptospirosis could be due to the failure of survivors to take the antibiotics that had been distributed to them immediately after the Dec. 17 deluge.

As of Thursday, 15 people had been confirmed dead due to leptospirosis [eight from this city and seven from Iligan City] while more than 200 others had contracted the disease caused by the bacteria leptospira.

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Its prevalence in flooded areas is often blamed on infected rats although other animals, like dogs and cats, could also become carriers.

Health officials said during the distribution of medicines, evacuees were also told to take doses of the antibiotics doxycycline.

Jun Galvan, information officer of the Department of Health in Northern Mindanao, said the antibiotics were handed out in anticipation of flood-borne diseases as people wade in floodwaters to search for missing relatives or retrieve belongings.

As more patients crowd hospitals, Dr. David Mendoza, head of the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance and Disaster Response Unit, said health officials were certain that many evacuees failed to heed the advice of health officials to take the antibiotic before they wade in the floods.

In this city, 96 persons tested positive for leptospirosis while 118 cases were reported in Iligan City.

Galvan said the mortality rate here was 4 percent and 6 percent in Iligan.

Dr. Jaime Bernadas, Northern Mindanao health director, said health officials were working double time to combat the disease following a declaration of an outbreak.

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He said health workers were also told to conduct an information campaign against leptospirosis.

Galvan said one way of avoiding leptospirosis is to wear protective gear when working in muddy or flooded areas.

“They need to wear rubber boots and rubber gloves,” he said.

As people become aware of the importance of doxycycline, the supply of the antibiotic is becoming scarce.

Several pharmacies outside the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) here reported they were running out of doxycycline.

Bernadas said those showing symptoms of leptospiroris [flu-like fever, jaundice and vomiting, among others] should immediately see a doctor.

In a related development, a six-member Swiss emergency relief team working in disaster-hit areas of Northern Mindanao since Dec. 22 ended its humanitarian work on Thursday.

The team, backed by a P15-million financial assistance from the Swiss government, helped restore water supply in some areas here and Iligan City and also installed water tanks in evacuation centers.

“The Swiss emergency team has shown tremendous skills and dedication in its efforts to relieve the suffering of the afflicted population,” Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines Ivo Sieber said. Reports from Bobby Lagsa and Ryan Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Cagayan de Oro City, flood diseases, iligan city, leptospirosis, Swiss emergency team, Tropical Storm “Sendong”
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