Diarrhea outbreak hits 350, killing one, in Davao Oriental barangay
CARAGA, Davao Oriental, Philippines — A diarrhea outbreak in Barangay Santiago in this town has hit more than 350 people, killing a man, which prompted local officials to seek the help of higher government offices.
Cludualdo Tucasan, a resident of Sitio Lower Manzanas in Barangay Santiago, died after being admitted for diarrhea at a hospital in Mati City at around 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
That was two days after authorities noted the first cases of diarrhea in the barangay on Sunday, Jan. 30.
The Local Health Board (LHB) met on Tuesday to “consolidate efforts to decisively address the outbreak” in all of nine sitios of the barangay, said Caraga Councilor Gerry S. Dumaan Jr., who also chairs the LHB.
A total of 60 patients, the youngest a three-month-old baby, were taken for treatment to town’s makeshift hospital.
The building, previously used as a COVID-19 quarantine facility, has been converted into an infirmary for those stricken with diarrhea.
“This is the first time that this kind of outbreak happens in Caraga,” said Dumaan, who inspected the facility on Tuesday. “This is worst than the pandemic,” he said as the number of victims surged to more than 350 victims on Tuesday.
Earlier, Dr. Chris Anthony Limen, the municipal health officer, warned residents against drinking water from their faucets as authorities suspected the outbreak to have been caused by contaminated water.
Limen advised residents to drink bottled distilled or purified water instead.
But Neri Calig-onan, whose wife was among those admitted to the makeshift hospital, said the residents could not afford bottled distilled or purified water.
Limen then appealed to the provincial government to “temporarily subsidize safe potable water” for the residents.
Melanie Ybanez, an officer of the Caraga Municipal Risk Reduction and Management Office, said they had already advised Santiago residents to boil water from their faucets for at least 20 minutes before drinking it.
As early as November 2021, Barangay Santiago officials already advised residents to constantly sanitize the local water source after cases of diarrhea were recorded then.
Busted pipes and the recent flooding were believed to have contaminated the water source.
Limen, who was also at the makeshift hospital, said they were “praying hard the outbreak would be contained soon.”
Dumaan suggested to the town to canceled its vaccination program in the meantime. “The limited number of health personnel” in Caraga could then focus on addressing the diarrhea outbreak.
The Caraga only has one doctor, three nurses, and around 20 health workers.
Limen told the Inquirer on Monday that they had difficulty accounting for all victims of the outbreak because some residents suffering from diarrhea were hesitant to come out in the open for fear of being swabbed if admitted in health facilities.
Limen dispatched health workers to “go house-to-house for them to check every resident” suffering from diarrhea who might still be in hiding.
Dumaan also sent his staff members to the town of Baganga, 38 kilometers from here, to buy medicines for patients at the makeshift hospital.
“[We] will do everything to ensure our health workers will be augmented,” he said.
Pharmacies here and the neighboring town of Man-ay, 21 kilometers away, have run out not only of medicines needed to treat diarrhea but also of bottled distilled and purified water.
Marilyn Silveron, the chairperson of Barangay Santiago, said they did not send some of the outbreak victims to any medical center but treated them at the barangay health center. They were also closely monitoring those being treated at home.
Only those who could no longer be accommodated at the barangay, the municipal health centers and makeshift hospital were admitted to the health facilities in the neighboring towns of Manay and Baganga and the city of Mati.
According to Dumaan, health officials had confirmed cholera to have caused the outbreak. But Limen said only three cases of amoebiasis had been confirmed at his level.
Silveron said the Davao Oriental provincial government had earlier set aside P20 million to rehabilitate the Barangay Santiago water system, but the project had never been started.