Treat survivors quickly: doctor

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Thursday, December 5, 2013


A HEALTH expert from the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila said authorities should keep an eye on evacuees from typhoon-ravaged Eastern Visayas for they might be carrying parasitic diseases with them.

Dr. Vicente Belizario Jr., the UP National Institutes of Health executive director, said physicians should thoroughly check the survivors if they have illnesses caused by parasites like worms.

“When they come to Cebu, the health workers need to catch them and be able to provide assistance to evacuees,” he said. “If they are not yet treated in Leyte and Samar, they need to be treated where they evacuate so they could not suffer the morbidity caused by the worms.”

Belizario said snails in rice fields, irrigation canals, rivers and creeks carry the parasites that can cause schistosomiasis, which is highly endemic in the provinces of Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar and Eastern Samar.

Disease

Schistosomiasis is a chronic illness that can spawn diarrhea, abdominal pains, and ulcer-like symptoms. The disease impairs growth and cognitive development of children, and its urinary form is associated with increased risks for bladder cancer in adults, a medical website reported.

Infected persons might die if they are not treated on time, said Belizario.

“There is no immunity. If you had this (disease) before and you are already treated, you can get it again,” he said.

Evacuation centers, he said, should also be well-sanitized. Survivors should also practice proper hygiene and should avoid eating raw food because they might fall ill.

About 875 of the Eastern Visayas’s 4,390 villages are classified as endemic to schistosomiasis, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) reported last July.

She said the villages are hosts to 1,718 freshwater snail colonies where people get infected when larval forms of the parasite released by freshwater snails penetrate the skin during contact with infested water.

Records

At least 742,271 persons of the four provinces’ 4.13 million estimated population are prone to schistosomiasis, according to the Department of Health (DOH) 8.

DOH records show that 314,245 infected persons are in Leyte; 95,003 are in Samar; 146,836 are in Eastern Samar and 186,187 are in Northern Samar. The disease, however, cannot spread from one person to another.

Belizario said the children are vulnerable to getting parasitic disease caused by worms.

“They are at high risk because they are not careful,” he said. “Children coming from disaster areas need to be dewormed. If (they) are not yet dewormed in Samar and Leyte, they need to be dewormed here.”

He said children need to be dewormed every six months in a year.

The DOH said the absence of sanitary toilets triggered the emergence of schistosomiasis, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) 8 reported. Infected persons consistently increased in the past three years: 489,681 in 2010; 501,912 in 2011; and 541,798 in 2012.

Meanwhile, Belizario said the Cebu City Government should tie up with Department of Health in building a new hospital. He said patients should be well taken care of so that their diseases will not worsen.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 05, 2013.

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