ZAMBOANGA CITY: Local government and health officials have urged residents to maintain good hygiene and cleanliness following the outbreak of the highly-contagious norovirus that has caused the deaths of four people.
Sheila Covarrubias, spokesperson for Mayor Beng Climaco, citing official medical records, said over 700 people – mostly children – were affected by the virus and are 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 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 acute gastroenteritis, with the stomach or intestines or both getting inflamed, and leads one to experience stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. The best way to help prevent norovirus is to practice proper hand washing and general cleanliness,” he said.
Agbulos said many 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.
Affected by the virus were village 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 El Niño.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no specific medicine to treat people with the norovirus illness. Norovirus infection cannot be treated with antibiotics because it is viral.
The Zamboanga City Water District has been rationing water every other day – only for five hours – during the past two months, citing the low water level in its dam.