Philippines on Alert for Post-Typhoon Disease Outbreak

Marielle Lucenio

Residents wade through flooded streets to gather their belongings in Rodriguez town, in Rizal province east of Manila, Nov. 15, 2020. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


A police helicopter delivers relief supplies to people in Cagayan province that was cut off by massive flooding from the Cagayan River, Nov. 17, 2020. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]


Backhoes clear a landslide that covered a road in Baggao town, Cagayan province, where three people died in the aftermath of Typhoon Vamco, Nov. 17, 2020. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]


Much of Rodriguez town, in Rizal province, lies in ruins in the aftermath of Typhoon Vamco, Nov. 15, 2020. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


Farmers try to salvage their rice crops in fields submerged by flood water caused by Typhoon Vamco in the town of Baggao, Cagayan province, Nov. 17, 2020. [Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews]


Residents of the Philippine town of Rodriquez look for items to salvage, Nov. 15, 2020. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

As villagers returned to their homes submerged in water or buried by debris left by Typhoon Vamco (Ulysses), the Philippine government placed health officials on alert Thursday for a possible outbreak of water-borne diseases.

The health department said it was on “heightened surveillance” for influenza-like diseases, leptospirosis and dengue, which could be spread by rats and mosquitoes.

“We are very wary of possible outbreak of communicable, waterborne and vector-borne diseases after disasters, more so right now that we are also dealing with a pandemic that could cause a complex situation,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

“We are encouraging everyone in affected communities to take care and follow the advice of our local health authorities.”

Putrid and stagnant water left behind by typhoons are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Additionally, they could also contain the bacteria that causes leptospirosis, an infection of the blood and commonly carried by the common rat.

The government, meanwhile on Thursday, reported 41 deaths caused by COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 7,998. Another 1,337 infections were reported, bringing the total to 413,430.

Typhoon Vamco made landfall on Nov. 11, days after Typhoon Goni, the world’s strongest typhoon this year, swept through the Philippines. While Goni veered from populated areas, the much weaker Vamco drenched a wide section of Luzon Island, the country’s most populated northern island.

Disaster response was quick in villages that were flooded in Cainta and Rizal, suburban areas east of Manila. Emergency response quickly shifted to Cagayan province in the far north, where nearly all of the province’s 28 towns were submerged.

The government said about 3.5 million people were affected by the storm. As of Thursday, at least 73 had died as a result of Vamco and more than a dozen were still missing.

Duque said health officers assigned to evacuation centers had been told to be vigilant so they could detect and prevent the spread of these communicable diseases.

“At the evacuation centers, we are conducting symptom screening and clinical and exposure assessment of evacuees,” he said. “Currently we have not detected any COVID-19 cases in evacuation centers.”


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