The Philippines has appealed for international aid to stem an outbreak of a bacterial disease that has killed more than 130 people in areas still flooded after deadly typhoons, health officials said on Wednesday.
The Philippines is still recovering from two recent typhoons — Ketsana and Parma — that brought record-high rainfall that flooded Manila and large swathes of farms in northern provinces. More than 850 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.
Three weeks after typhoon Ketsana, wide areas have remained flooded in and around Manila, causing a surge in cases of fatal leptospirosis in poor communities, said Enrique Tayag, head of the health department’s national epidemiology centre.
More than 130 people had died and nearly 2,000 remained in government hospitals due to leptospirosis, a bacterial infection caused by exposure to animal urine. The bacteria are common in tropical countries with heavy rainfall and frequent flooding.
“We have already sent an SOS to the international community because this is one of the biggest outbreak of leptospirosis not just in the Philippines, but in the world,” Tayag told lawmakers at a public hearing in Manila.
He said about 680 cases of leptospirosis were reported every year. From October 1-15, a total of 1,887 cases have been reported in 15 hospitals in Manila region, Tayag said, adding the health department needed about $1 million worth of medicines to contain the disease.
Health authorities said 1.7 million people in Manila and two nearby provinces are at risk because flood waters in these areas are expected to remain until December 2009.
The Philippines is bracing for another powerful typhoon in the northern regions on the main island of Luzon, evacuating thousands to avoid death and destruction.
Typhoon Lupit, which means “fierce” in Filipino, was expected to make landfall around the far northern tip of the Luzon region by Thursday and dump more rain on typhoon-weary provinces, said the weather bureau.
Ketsana and Parma damaged or destroyed more than 27 billion pesos ($580 million) in crops and infrastructure.