DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 May) — Seven persons have died while at least 170 others have been hospitalized as of Tuesday noon following a diarrhea outbreak in the remote villages of Alamada town in North Cotabato, municipal information officer Melissa Bagsican said.
She said the number could further increase since the outbreak has reportedly spread to more areas.
Provincial health officer Dr. Eva Rabaya said that according to the initial reports they received only around 70 people have been confined in different hospitals. But she said over the phone Tuesday morning that she was assembling a team of health workers that will go to Alamada.
The diarrhea outbreak was the first in Alamada, Bagsican said, adding the victims were from Barangays Dado, Lower Dado and some sub-villages of Pigcawaran.
These villages are part of the town’s watershed area that feeds the Alamada River, she said.
She said the local government first received reports of the outbreak since Saturday, but it was only on Monday that most of the patients sought treatment at the town’s health center.
Vice Mayor Samuel Alim said over Bombo Radyo that the patients complained of loose bowel movement, vomiting and stomach pain.
Most of them were brought to the hospitals in Libungan and Midsayap, 17 kilometers away from Alamada.
Alamada’s local hospital has only a capacity 15 beds, Bagsican said.
Some of the patients are now treated at the barangay health center of Dado, she added.
She said they are still verifying reports the outbreak was caused by water contamination due to excessive use of herbicides on corn farms.
“We received reports that many farmers recently applied herbicides on their cornfield upstream and the recent rains washed it down to the water system and rivers resulting to the outbreak,” she explained.
Most of the farmers in the area are into corn production, Bagsican said.
On Tuesday morning, the local government received reports that some of the residents in Barangay Kamansi, some 25 kilometers away from Dado and located along the Alamada River, were also affected by the outbreak.
Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza has directed the provincial health office and ALamada’s health unit to conduct water sampling to determine the cause of the diarrhea outbreak.
Philip Costales, a local tourist guide in Barangay Dado said some of the victims were from the sub-villages of Dulao and New Leon.
Costales said some of the patients whose condition was not serious were given first aid at the Dado barangay hall.
Aside from ambulances, he added, some private vehicles have been provided to transport the patients to the hospital in Midsayap, about 60 kilometers away from Dado.
In remote villages, residents rely on rivers and natural springs for drinking water.
Dado is home to the famous Asik-asik Falls that has drawn locals and tourists alike. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)