Water from pump near septic tank seen cause of diarrhea outbreak in Davao Occidental town
DAVAO CITY—Health authorities continued to be on their toes following an outbreak of diarrhea cases at a village of Jose Abad Santos town, Davao Occidental province that has already killed a 58-year-old man and is believed to be caused by contaminated water.
The outbreak burst in the community last Saturday (Jan. 2) and also sent 36 people to hospital.
The town mayor, Jason John Joyce, said health officials had already taken water samples from a deep well that is the source of drinking water for villagers to determine what kind of bacteria caused the diarrhea outbreak shortly after New Year’s Day.
Joyce told the Inquirer by phone that the water samples have to be tested in laboratories either in Digos or Davao City. “It will take days before we can get the results,” he said on Monday (Jan. 4).
He said 31 people had been hospitalized initially and four had been discharged. But six new cases were reported and those taken ill had been brought to the town’s Tomas Lachica District Hospital.
Among the 31 villagers who had been first hospitalized, Emilio Manday, 58, died last Saturday, the mayor said.
But Dr. Roel Cagape, founder of the nonprofit Hearts and Brains Inc. and who responded to the health emergency, said Manday suffered bleeding from peptic ulcer and could not have died because of diarrhea.
Joyce said he had ordered a vehicle stationed at the village, a good two-hour ride from the town proper, to serve as an ambulance for sick residents who needed to be brought to hospital.
He said it was not the first diarrhea outbreak in his town, where most villages relied on deep wells as primary source of drinking water.
“We also experienced past outbreaks in other barangays because water from deep wells can easily be contaminated by seepages, especially when toilets were located nearby,” he said.
Cagape, whose nonprofit group is based in Malaptan, Sarangani province, said the group learned that the water system of the village had broken down, forcing villagers to drink water from a pump near a septic tank.
Tests have to be made on water coming from the pump to determine if it was safe for drinking, the mayor said.
While the village’s water system has been restored and the septic tank condemned, a diarrhea outbreak could happen again if water from the pump turns out to be unsafe, he said.
The mayor and Cagape found that some patients had already started to feel symptoms last Thursday (Dec. 31) but the stream of those needing hospitalization continued until Sunday (Jan. 3).
The municipal government paid for medical expenses and transport of the sick while Cagape’s group turned over bottled water to the village. The Department of Health (DOH) in the region also sent water containers and intravenous fluids to the town.
Cagape said workers from the provincial health office were already at the hospital attending to victims when he arrived to help. “The outbreak was already under control,” he said in a phone interview.
Joyce said the local government has also turned the town gymnasium into a command center for the health emergency.
A medical team has also been sent to the area to distribute medicines and to observe if there were still more cases coming.
Joyce said he was convening a meeting with various department heads to discuss measures to prevent another outbreak.
He said the local government would closely monitor permits for deep wells to make sure these water sources heed safety standards. Village officials’ capacity to respond and report emerging infections and diseases are to be strengthened, the mayor added.
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