Author: Maru de Vera
Water borne disease, simply put, are maladies caused from exposure to contaminated liquids usually from human, animal or chemical wastes. It could range from ingestion of dirty water, to contact with it. Lack of sanitary waste disposal of these wastes kills many people every year. Here in the Philippines, the most common outbreaks investigated by the Department of Health are the following: cholera, bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever. These outbreaks can be both passive and catastrophic because most of the diseases have no specific treatment modalities. For the past twenty years, it has been the number one cause of morbidity and mortality incidence rate - as high as 1,997 per 100,000 population while mortality rate is 6.7 per 100,000 population.
Hepatitis A can be acquired from consumption of water contaminating fecal matter, usually found in poor sanitation areas. It is a viral diseases interfering with liver functions, and symptoms are fever, jaundice and diarrhea usually from six to nine months. Fortunately, a vaccine is available.
Typhoid fever, like the former, is caused by contamination from fecal matter, except the disease is bacterial, and simple contact can trigger the disease.
Salmenollosis and Campylobateriosis are two of the common water borne causes of bacterial diarrhea. The most common sources of salmonella are raw poultry, eggs, unpaesteurized milk, cheese products, and exposure to infected animals especially turtles, iguanas and other reptiles, chickens, cattle, and poultry. Campylobabacter jejuni is the organism that causes campylobateriosis. Cattle, chickens, birds and flies are reported to be the sources, as well as non-chlorinated water such as streams and ponds. Another cause is inadequate sewage treatment, when human wastes are disposed of in open latrines, ditches, canals and water courses.
An acute seasonal problem in urban and coastal areas in the Philippines is the access to clean and adequate water remains. The government released some of the reports for the four urban cirtical regions in terms of water quality and quantity - National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Central Visayas. Only thirty six percent of the country's river systems are classified as sources of public water supply, while fifty eight percent of groundwater sample is contaminated with coliform therefore needing treatment. Thirty-one percent of illness monitored for a five-year period were from water-borne sources and lastly, many areas experience water shortage during dry seasons. Aside from that, there is considerable under-investment by the government in sanitation and sewarage, even thought it was ranked as a high priority in the Philippines Agenda 21 of 1996.
The best approach to preventing this and limiting economic losses due to waterborne diseases is prevention through health education and strict and water sanitation. For example, the team of Indang Water District is installing water supply to replace water lines installed along the road and sometimes along open sewers that have caused waterborne diseases. Another system devised by the Philippines is the Food and Waterborne Disease Prevention and Control Program (FWBDPCP) esatblished in 1997, but becamse fully operational in year 2000 with a budget of PHP551,000. The program has focused on the diseases mentioned earler, and so many other diseases acquired through contaminated food and water.
Personally, I think synchronization between the government, private organizations aimed for these type of problems, and the citizens is the most important thing to remember when preventing waterborne diseases. As a head of the country, the government is responsible for handling productive and cost-effective ways to remove, or at least minimize the ridiculous rate at which outbreaks have caused the country over the years. They should hire capable employees that does their job willingly, and be passionate in what they do. Private organizations can support these programs, and maybe even host their own, and as citizens of a country, we should be wary and aware of what is happening around us. It is not enough that information be given by the government, and media, but it is our duty to be informed with this type of news, and be up to date. Online social websites like twitter or facebook, or even blogs like these can provide these type of information. As said earleir, total synchronization of all these makes for a better and healthier country.