DOH 7 issues alert as El Niño-related health incidents soar

DOH 7 issues alert as El Niño-related health incidents soar
(Photo by Lujen Limosnero)

WITH the onset of the scorching summer season, the regional health agency issues a public alert regarding the prevalence of El Niño-related health incidents, having documented 6,011 cases in February alone.

Dr. Shelbay Blanco, a medical officer at the Department of Health Central Visayas (DOH 7), attributed these cases to the ongoing dry spell induced by the strong El Niño phenomenon.

He said that the reported illnesses encompass a range of conditions including food and water-borne diseases, animal bites, chickenpox, cholera, dehydration, food poisoning, measles, and typhoid fever, among others.

Blanco emphasizes public awareness and proactive health measures to combat disease spread in the hot, dry season. The agency urges prioritizing hygiene, accessing clean water, and promptly seeking medical attention for symptoms.

"If we really need to leave the house for work, let's make sure to equip ourselves with water as much as possible. Drink plenty of water to keep ourselves hydrated," he said, encouraging the use of light clothing and being mindful of the food we intake.

According to the data he shared with SunStar Cebu on March 6, 2024, the highest incidence of El Niño-related health issues in February was animal bites, with 4,329 recorded cases, followed by upper respiratory tract infections with 535 cases, and pneumonia with 287 cases. Dehydration cases totaled 178, and amoebiasis ranked fifth with 162 cases.

Blanco said that they collaborated with other government agencies through the Regional Task Office El Niño, wherein they participated in routine meetings to devise strategies alongside other government agencies, employing a whole-of-government approach to mitigate the effects of El Niño.

Blanco stressed that the task force's environmental division currently monitors water supply in Cebu and neighboring provinces in the region through rural health units and sanitary inspectors.

He emphasized the critical need for uninterrupted water supply to maintain public hygiene and sanitation.

"We are urging rural health units, moreso, rural sanitary inspectors to regularly check the water, in close coordination with LWUA (Local Water Utilities Administration), especially in rural areas," he said.

Meanwhile, he also urged the public to heed heat index reports released by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

He emphasized that taking the heat index seriously provides crucial information on the level of discomfort caused by combined heat and humidity.

Blanco added that high heat indices pose health hazards, especially for vulnerable groups like the elderly, children, and those with medical conditions. Extended exposure to high temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat cramps, and even life-threatening heatstroke.

Alfredo Quiblat Jr., head of Pagasa’s Visayas Station in Mactan, earlier said that temperatures will continue to increase in the upcoming weeks.

He said the heat index will escalate to 45 to 47 degrees Celsius, especially in May when the most intense effects of the ongoing El Niño phenomenon will be experienced.

“Without El Niño, the heat index could rise to 45 degrees Celsius, so during El Niño it could go higher,” he said.

According to Pagasa, El Niño elevates sea-surface temperatures, influencing global weather patterns by altering precipitation, temperature, and atmospheric circulation. This ultimately leads to decreased rainfall. (KJF)


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