Senate health committee to look into cholera outbreak

(PHILSTAR) MANILA, Philippines — The Senate committee on health is set to conduct an inquiry into the outbreak of cholera in multiple regions in the country that has caused the death of scores of Filipinos in the past months.

The inquiry was sought by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who filed Senate Resolution 266 calling for a probe after the Department of Health (DOH) reported a total of 3,729 cases since last January – a 282 percent increase from the number of cases the year previous.

“At least 33 individuals have already died from the disease this year, and children aged five to nine were most affected by cholera. More than ascertaining the whys and the wherefores, the situation strongly calls for a review of existing policies to prevent and mitigate the outbreak of the disease,” Estrada said in the explanatory note of his resolution.

Calling it “a disease of inequity, disproportionately affecting the poorest and most vulnerable sectors,” the senator noted the Global Task Force on Cholera Control report, saying that deaths due to the disease are preventable with today’s arsenal of tools as it can be controlled with a multi-sector approach through the provision of basic water, sanitation and hygiene services, and oral cholera vaccines.

“There is a need to protect the population, especially the children and the underprivileged, against this debilitating yet preventable illness through a coordinated approach among government agencies,” he said.

The existing policies and programs on sanitation and immunization must be reviewed in order to enhance emergency response mechanisms and preventive measures against the transmission of the disease and to promote public health, he said.

DOH data showed an upsurge in cholera cases in the country, from 976 cases recorded in January to October last year, to 3,729 during the same period this year, with most of the cases reported from Eastern Visayas, Davao region and Caraga.

Central Luzon, Western Visayas and Eastern Visayas have surpassed the epidemic threshold levels for cholera during the past 10 months.

Cholera, according to the World Health Organization, is an extremely virulent disease caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholerae, and it can cause severe acute watery diarrhea affecting both children and adults and can kill within hours if left untreated.

With the onslaught of the rainy season and repeated flooding, it would do well for the DOH to “preposition” the availability of an anti-leptospirosis drug in low-lying villages to prevent a potential outbreak. – Delon Porcalla