PALO, LEYTE – Cholera cases in Eastern Visayas shoot to 391 with two deaths in January, topping by 98 percent the number of cases recorded last year, the Department of Health regional office (DOH-8) reported. 

The spike in cases is attributed to the lack of clean and safe water in many households as potable water systems are among those that were affected by the torrential rains in the region that started in December 2022 up to the present.

DOH-8 regional information officer Jelyn Lopez said the cholera cases in Eastern Visayas are made complex by the rainy weather and the lack of sanitary toilets in many households. Of the 143 cities and municipalities in the region, only 26 local government units have been declared as zero open defecation.

“Many potable water sources were contaminated due to the floods,” she said, adding, “Most of the cases we have came from municipalities that were heavily affected by floods.”

The Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of DOH-8 said the 391 cases are 98 percent higher than the total of 197 cases recorded last year over the same period with one death.

But of the 391 cases, only one case was confirmed cholera case – a patient from Borongan City – based on laboratory test results. Ten of the cases are considered probable cholera as they tested positive in rapid diagnostic test, while 378 were suspected cholera cases since they manifested acute watery diarrhea and severe dehydration or died from acute watery diarrhea.

Samar recorded the greatest number of cholera cases with 157, Eastern Samar with 129, Leyte with 71, Northern Samar with 23, and Southern Leyte with 16. The two casualties came from Ormoc City and Hinabangan, Samar.

Lopez said getting laboratory tests is a challenge since stool samples have to be tested within two hours after they are taken and the only hospital equipped with the testing laboratory is at Eastern Visayas Medical Center in Tacloban City. Cholera is caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria, which enters the body when a person swallows food or water contaminated with cholera bacteria. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe and life-threatening. By Elmer Recuerdo (EV Mail Feb. 6-12, 2023 issue)