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Contaminated water kills 45 people

Hundreds hospitalized in Zambo City, Sulu province in gastro outbreak
/ 12:06 AM May 29, 2016

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Contaminated water in this city and the province of Sulu has already killed 45 people, according to authorities.

Health officials said the fatalities had been suffering from an epidemic of acute gastroenteritis that started in March.

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Dr. Joshua Brillantes, chief of the local health support division of the Department of Health in Western Mindanao, blamed contaminated water for the prevalence of gastroenteritis here and in Sulu province and the deaths that came with it.

“Water is the main culprit of this,” he said.

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Brillantes said the surge in the number of gastroenteritis cases has been observed during the months
associated with the El Niño phenomenon, starting in March.

“The El Niño phenomenon meant scarcity of water, which resulted in rationing,” he said.
Brillantes said although the number of cases declined recently, gastroenteritis continues to spread in other areas like Zamboanga del Sur.

Dr. Fahra Tan Omar, director of the Integrated Provincial Hospital in Sulu, said health workers had attended to a total of 1,706 gastroenteritis patients since March. Of this number, 1,272 were children while 434 were adults.

“It has been noted that there has been an upsurge in diarrhea cases admitted at the Sulu provincial hospital,” Omar said.

Omar said tests showed that the drinking water supplied by the Jolo Water District is among the causes of the surge in gastroenteritis cases in Sulu.

“We got samples from the water district, we had it tested and it tested positive for fecal coliform,” she said.

She added that health officials had written the manager of the water district about the contamination and the clean water that the district supplies to households.

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She said the district was also asked to check for pipe leaks.

Dr. Vikki de los Reyes, field epidemiology training program officer at the Zamboanga City health office, said that in this city, 22 gastroenteritis patients had died since April 4.

She said the dead were among 2,936 patients hospitalized here since the outbreak of gastroenteritis in April.

Brillantes said tests conducted here showed that even water coming from refilling stations had been contaminated by the coliform bacteria.

“It showed that poor handling (of water) is among the reasons (for the epidemic),” he said.

Joselito Sarmiento, of the Zamboanga City Water District, said the company had increased the amount of chlorine being mixed into the city’s drinking water after several taps had been contaminated, too.

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