Palawan town under ‘state of emergency’ due to diarrhea outbreak

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan — The municipality of Quezon in southern Palawan is now under a “state of emergency” due to the diarrhea outbreak brought about by contaminated drinking water sources.

Dr. Allan Paciones, of the Quezon Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO), confirmed to the Philippine News Agency on Friday the death of four people due to the outbreak.

He said two of the fatalities are from Barangay Malatgao, and one each from Barangays Alfonso XIII and Pinaglabanan.

Paciones cited that per water sampling tests conducted by the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) of the Department of Health (DOH), the four Quezon residents succumbed to severe gastroenteritis.

In Barangay Pinaglabanan, where the outbreak supposedly started, the cases recorded were minor compared to Alfonso XIII and Malatgao, where two had died, Paciones said.

He said this is due to person-to-person transfer of bacteria in Pinaglaban unlike in the other two barangays, where residents may have defecated near the water sources.

“Residents may have discharged waste matter near the water sources, and because it is raining, the bacteria flowed to our water system,” he said.

Gastroenteritis is infection of the stomach and intestines, resulting from bacterial toxins or viral infection that causes vomiting and diarrhea, he explained.

“Although we now have less recorded cases compared in July and August due to the conduct of mass treatment, we continue to warn residents of Quezon against drinking water without boiling it first or treating with Aquatabs,” he said.

Paciones added even their purified water refilling stations have been found to be contaminated by a bacteria whose kind will still be identified by the RESU with the help of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

“The RESU will send samples to the RITM to determine what type of bacteria it is, and after a week we will know,” Paciones said.

Aside from the mass treatment, which involves the decontamination of water sources and distribution of purification tablets like Aquatabs, the municipal government is now conducting information awareness and daily monitoring of cases.

As of September 8, cases have gone down from 727 to 199, and if the downtrend does not continue, Quezon town will have to elevate the declaration from state of emergency to calamity, he said.

“Since the declaration of state of emergency last week, a fund of PHP250,000 had been released for our use to solve the health issue. If the downtrend doesn’t remain that way, we will declare a state of calamity as we were told the only solution for now is to have residents drink bottled water,” the MDRRMO chief said. Celeste Anna Formoso/