Typhoon Odette linked to Barili typhoid cases

THE local government unit of Barili is looking at Typhoon Odette’s impact on the residents, rather than the failure of two water firms to pass e. coli bacteriological tests, as the cause of the emergence of typhoid fever in the southwest Cebu town this year.Barili information officer Mary Jane Pañares told SunStar Cebu Monday, June 27, 2022 that while Dakitanong Pundok Inc. (DPI) and Barili Waterworks failed the bacteriological test conducted by the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), the spread of typhoid fever in the town could not be blamed on the two water distributors as these did not supply water to the affected barangays.The Cebu Provincial Health Office reported that 98 persons contracted typhoid fever, three of whom died, in 24 of Barili’s 42 barangays from March 16 to June 25.The e. coli test on the municipality’s water sources was conducted as part of its investigation to determine the cause of the typhoid fever cases in the locality.Sixteen water sources were subjected to the test.“We will give them a fair chance to defend themselves. From what I learned from the DPI, they will also conduct their own examination at the base of their water source as the water that was first examined by IPHO are those coming out of faucets,” said Pañares.Other causes of water contamination being looked into are the lack of proper sanitation, open defecation by some residents, and the improper construction of septic tanks.Pañares said there are still residents who defecate in open areas after their toilets were damaged by Typhoon Odette (Rai) last December, prompting their dirt to be washed away during downpours, possibly mixing with the flow of water in leaked pipes.“Based on our investigation and house-to-house investigation, it is very possible that the water source might be contaminated by open defecation. There are also CR (comfort rooms) that have not been repaired yet due to lack of resources,” said Pañares.No closureEven though it has found probable causes of contamination, the official also said the town won’t close its water sources.Instead, Pañares said, they only put up “not safe for drinking purposes” signs in the areas.“We cannot close it now because they are using it for other household purposes,” she said, such as for bathing and washing clothes, among others.Pañares said they have also conducted an intensive information campaign at the household level, through the rural health unit (RHU) and barangay officials, to educate their constituents not to get water for drinking purposes from the sources.“Rather, if they will use the water there, they have to do the chlorination. They’ve been taught how to do it. They’ve been provided chlorine tablets so they’ll know how to prepare the stock water that is safe for drinking,” she explained, adding they prioritized barangays with cases of typhoid fever although the directive covers the entire town.Based on the cases admitted in the town, Pañares said they are focusing on Barangays Gunting and Mantayupan.Operators of all water sources in the town have also been ordered to repair all pipeline leaks and chlorinate 24 hours per day.Not transmissibleIn a separate interview, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, Department of Health 7 chief pathologist, assured the public that typhoid fever is not transmissible.Loreche told SunStar Cebu that typhoid fever is a water- and food-borne illness. People can get it if the water is not clean and contains the salmonella typhi or if the food was prepared with unclean water.She said one could also get the disease if the person who prepared the food has the microorganism.With this, Loreche urged the public to boil their water properly.“Those eating in the eateries or any food outlets, for that matter, should make sure the water used for cooking and drinking is clean, the one who handles and prepares the food wears gloves or makes sure they wash hands with soap and water,” she added.Loreche said typhoid cases can happen anytime but are more prominent if there is flooding and drinking water is not secured.Capacity breachedAs of Sunday, June 26, both the Barili District Hospital and the town’s infirmary had exceeded their bed capacity due to the high number of typhoid cases.The hospital has only a 25-bed capacity, but the number of admitted patients on Sunday already reached 60, of whom 27 were typhoid fever cases.Pañares said two more cases were admitted due to the illness in the district hospital on Monday, June 27.She, however, said they had yet to determine how many of these cases were from the town of Barili since the district hospital caters to patients from Dumanjug, Alcantara and Ronda as well.The Barili Infirmary, on the other hand, has only a 10-bed capacity, but it already had 25 persons admitted with typhoid fever on Monday, excluding those admitted due to other diseases.Pañares also disclosed that the RHU alone had already logged 82 cases, 56 of whom were admitted to the town’s infirmary from March to June 27.Most of the 41 typhoid cases admitted in Barili District Hospital and the town’s infirmary are children, but doctors said all of them were in stable condition while others had shown improvement.Those who experience symptoms of typhoid such as fever, headache, body aches, cough and difficulty in discharging feces are encouraged to call the Barili RHU at (32) 470-9195. (MKG, ANV, TPT)