Bukidnon seeks WHO help on schistosomiasis

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/15 May) —  The Bukidnon Provincial Board has passed a resolution requesting the World Health Organization (WHO) to intervene and provide financial assistance for the rehabilitation of the Matin-ao Spring Resort in Bangcud, Malaybalay City to “contain and eliminate schistosomiasis.”

The resolution sponsored by lawyer Nemesio Beltran Jr., last Wednesday seeks the assistance of WHO to declare the spring as a pilot area where they can pour scientific, medical, and financial resources to prevent schistosomiasis.

“The problem is too complicated that we have to ask them to intervene. The provincial government does not have the money and technical expertise to solve the schistosomiasis problem,” he told MindaNews.

Matin-ao resort, a favorite destination of both foreign and local tourists, has reportedly been  contaminated and infected with schistosomiasis in the last 10 years.

The provincial government has prohibited bathing in the resort inside its seven-hectare property, but visitors manage to sneak in and bathe in the spring resort’s cool waters.

He added he will also file another resolution to include in the piloting the Atugan Resort pool in Manolo Fortich.  “It is also contaminated,” he said.

Both resorts have remained open to the public.

According to the WHO, schistosomiasis, or bilharzia, is a parasitic disease caused by trematode flatworms of the genus Schistosoma.  Larval forms of the parasites, which are released by freshwater snails, penetrate the skin of people in the water.

“In the body, the larvae develop into adult schistosomes, which live in the blood vessels. The females release eggs, some of which are passed out of the body in the urine or faeces. Others are trapped in body tissues, causing an immune reaction,” it said.

“In urinary schistosomiasis, there is progressive damage to the bladder, ureters and kidneys. In intestinal schistosomiasis, there is progressive enlargement of the liver and spleen, intestinal damage, and hypertension of the abdominal blood vessels,” the WHO website said.

Control of schistosomiasis is based on “drug treatment, snail control, improved sanitation and health education.”

The National Epidemiology Center, as of 2005, reported that Northern Mindanao or Region 10 has the second highest cases of schistosomiasis nationwide at 5,406, and is the 6th leading cause of death in the region, according to data cited by Beltran in his resolution, which was approved on May 11.

In 2003, close to 30 of Bukidnon’s 464 barangays were considered schistosomiasis endemic.

According to the Department of Health, there are at present 2,222 schistosomiasis endemic barangays in 189 municipalities in 28 provinces in 11 regions in the Philippines.

Beltran said considering the data gathered, there is an urgent need for the WHO  to “step in and help eradicate schistosomiasis for the sake of humanity”.

Beltran also proposed that the provincial government create a task force to oversee the spring’s rehabilitation.

Attempts to decrease or eliminate snails from freshwater sources using snail pesticides, Beltran said, have led to a decrease in the number of people infected “but this often requires repeat treatments and some efforts have been stopped because of limited success,” he said.  (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)