Via The New York Times: Ravaged by Typhoon, Philippines Faces Threat of Serious Diseases. Excerpt:
The aftermath of the Philippines typhoon is now threatening the country with outbreaks of debilitating and potentially fatal diseases, including some thought to have been nearly eradicated, because of a collapse in sanitation, shortages of fresh water and the inability of emergency health teams to respond quickly in the week since the storm struck, doctors and medical officials said Thursday.
Illnesses including cholera, hepatitis, malaria, dengue fever, typhoid fever, bacterial dysentery and others that thrive in tropical, fetid environments, where sewage and water supplies intermingle, could form what doctors fear is the disaster’s second wave. They predicted that leptospirosis, a parasitic disease endemic to the Philippines, could surge.
And some said they would not be surprised to see a return of polio. The Philippines is part of an area of the western Pacific declared polio-free by the World Health Organization nearly 14 years ago.
Medical aid groups on the ground in Tacloban, the city of 220,000 that was flattened when the storm made landfall a week ago and that only began to bury its dead on Thursday, have already expressed alarm over the risk of widespread tetanus infections among survivors wounded by shards of corrugated metal and splintered wood.
Some aid groups have already reported exhausting their initial supplies of vaccine to thwart tetanus, a potentially fatal bacterial infection that can cause painful muscle contractions, the inability to swallow and the locking of the jaw.
“The population is at increased risk of tetanus as well as outbreaks of acute respiratory infections, measles, leptospirosis and typhoid fever,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the main international conduit for distributing relief to the Philippines, said on its website. The basic health infrastructures “are severely damaged in the worst affected areas and medical supplies are low.”
Nearly 4,000 people are known to have been injured in the storm, the Philippines government said Thursday on its typhoon disaster website, which puts them at immediate risk of infections and contagion. Relief groups consider the injured figure low because many areas destroyed in the storm have yet to be surveyed on the ground.
Doctors Without Borders, the Paris-based medical aid group that has sent emergency teams into outlying regions of the Philippine archipelago not reached by others, said Thursday that survivors on many islands were in need of everything, especially fresh drinking water.
Esther Sterk, a physician with the group that was helping to assess the immediate needs, said a damaged hospital in Roxas City, in northern Panay Island, was bracing for patients afflicted by contagious diseases. “They are already seeing cases of respiratory infections and diarrhea, and we expect the number of cases to increase,” Dr. Sterk said in an emailed update.