Philippines calls for help to address disease outbreak in storms' aftermath

The WHO on Thursday said the Philippines is requesting "international help to fight a deadly outbreak of an infectious disease following two devastating tropical storms," Agence France-Presse reports. Parts of Manila, which are still flooded almost four weeks after Tropical Storm Ketsana hit, are experiencing an outbreak of the bacterial infection, leptospirosis (10/22).

The infection, which is "spread by water contaminated with the urine of rats, dogs and other animals," has added to "the problems faced by the Philippines after back-to-back storms since late last month killed more than 900 people and devastated northern regions," according to the Associated Press/GMANews.TV (10/22). So far, 1,963 cases of leptospirosis have been reported and 148 people have died, said Francisco Duque, the Philippines health secretary, Sky News reports (10/22).

"A three-member team was flying into Manila 'in the next day or so' after the government sought help from the 140-nation Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network to fight the outbreak, Adam Craig, an official of the WHO Western Pacific regional office in Manila," said, AFP reports (10/22).

To prevent the infection from further spreading, government health workers have given antibiotics to 1.3 million people, the AP/GMANews.TV writes. Leptospirosis is spread "through exposed cuts and bruises. The disease can cause high fever, headache, sore muscles and vomiting. In extreme cases, it can lead to kidney failure and internal bleeding that can cause death."

"Peter Cordingley, WHO spokesman for the Western Pacific region, said many communities remain flooded and the number of infections could continue to grow, though number of fresh cases reported in government hospitals has begun to drop as waters recede in some communities," the news service reports (10/22).

According to Sky News, "The country is now bracing itself for more bad weather as forecasters predict Typhoon Lupit is set to bring winds gusting at more than 120 miles. Soldiers and paramedics have been deployed with rescue boats, trucks and emergency supplies and over 100 government buildings are on standby as possible evacuation camps" (10/22).

ABS-CBN News examines the government's response to the outbreak. "Health authorities earlier advised the public not to wade in flood waters and to use protective clothing in order to prevent flood-borne diseases like leptospirosis, typhoid fever, cholera, and hepatitis" (10/22).

In related news, Reuters AlertNet examines relief efforts in response to natural disasters. "When a disaster strikes, international relief agencies receive the bulk of media attention and donor funding but experts say it is actually the people living in the damaged areas who save the most lives and help survivors long after foreign aid workers leave," according to the news service. The article includes interviews with people who provide aid during disasters. It also discusses findings from a Britain Overseas Development Institute report (Dmitracova, 10/23).


Kaisernetwork.orgThis article is republished with kind permission from our friends at The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Copyright 2009 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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