ZAMBOANGA CITY: Local government and health officials in this southern Philippine city have urged residents to maintain good hygiene and cleanliness, following an outbreak of the highly-contagious norovirus that had already killed four people.
Sheila Covarrubias, spokeswoman for Mayor Beng Climaco, citing official medical records, said over 700 people – mostly children – were affected by the virus and are now being treated in hospitals after suffering from severe diarrhea.
“Laboratory test results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine revealed that the diarrhea outbreak in the city was caused by a viral infection called norovirus,” she said.
This was also confirmed by City Health Officer Dr. Rodel Agbulos, who said the norovirus is highly contagious and can be obtained from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.
“The virus causes stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed or acute gastroenteritis, and leads one to experience stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea,” he said. “The best way to help prevent norovirus is to practice proper hand washing and general cleanliness.”
Agbulos also said many of the patients were admitted in different hospitals due to acute gastroenteritis. Three of those who died recently were children and one was a prisoner, who suffered from severe dehydration.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no specific medicine to treat people with norovirus illness. Norovirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics because it is a viral infection.
Most of those affected by the virus were residents of Santa Catalina, Tumaga, Upper Calarian, Mampang, San Roque, Santa Barbara, Tetuan, Talon-Talon and Tugbungan, where there is acute water shortage due to the extreme weather phenomenon called El Niño.
Zamboanga City Water District has been rationing water every other day – for only five hours – over the past two months, citing the low level of water in its dam.
But its officials, residents observed, have failed to address the worsening water crisis, despite repeated warnings since last year by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration of the upcoming severe dry spell, which could last until June. AL JACINTO