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Three Viruses Plague Zamboanga, Cause Diarrhea Outbreak Affecting Thousands

May 23, 2016 05:27 AM EDT
Zamboanga Evacuation Centers Face Health Crisis As Death Toll Reaches 138
Zamboanga's unhealthy water poses threat to the community.
(Photo : Jeoffrey Maitem/Getty Images)

Local health officials in Zamboanga, a province in southern Philippines, had announced that the diarrhea cases in the city had breached the outbreak level.

In an interview with GMA news, Dr. Rodel Agbulos, city health officer, revealed that based on the laboratory tests performed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the outbreak might have been caused by not just one, but three different viruses - rotavirus, adenovirus and norovirus.

He also mentioned that other patients have niche infections, meaning one patient already has two viruses.

Rotavirus, according to CDC, most likely affect children. Symptoms include severe watery diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever and abdominal pain. Norovirus, meanwhile, can be transferred by an infected person to another host through contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms are almost the same with rotavirus. Adenoviruses cause respiratory illneses, with symptoms such as colds, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea and pink eye.

The number of people incurring diarrhea started escalating last March. As of May, death toll from the outbreak went up to 19, affecting mostly children less than five years old.

Dr. Ivy Iturralde of the city's Public Information Office said there were 2,324 people admitted due to diarrhea in at least 11 hospitals in the city between March 28 to May 14.

The incident also marks the first time that the city's pediatric wards had been filled beyond its capacity to accommodate people. Some patients had to be medicated in hallways and corridors.

After the dry spell brought about by the El Niño, people in Zamboanga has been receiving rations of water serviced by the Zamboanga City water District. It is believed that the unsanitary water led to cases of acute diarrhea in the area.

Previous bacteriological examination of water revealed positive for coliform, meaning the water is unsafe for drinking. The best way to prevent the spread of virus is to always make sure to wash your hands properly to prevent passing on the virus to another person.

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