MANILA, OCTOBER 30, 2003  (STAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe And Sheila Crisostomo - Health and sanitation personnel of the city government of Manila have contained the spread of diarrhea in an area in Tondo, Manila, which include Capulong, Velasquez, Varona, Raxabago streets and Dagupan extension.

This was announced yesterday by Manila Mayor Lito Atienza as he added that there were no new cases reported as of the night and yesterday morning. Still, city health personnel continue to make the rounds of hospitals and the affected areas.

Over 200 cases of severe diarrhea were recorded by city health officials in the affected areas. Four have died due to severe dehydration.

"We have contained the spread of the disease and most of the victims taken to the hospitals for treatment have been discharged. We are making sure that those who have been discharged can avail of further medical treatment if necessary," Atienza pointed out.

He further said that although cases of such diseases are usually treated at the San Lazaro Hospital, victims were also treated at the city-owned Gat Andres Bonifacio Medical Center and the facility is prepared to continue providing medical treatment for those who might still need it.

Barangay authorities in the affected areas have already been equipped with PHC bottles for continued monitoring of water supply.

Atienza reiterated his advice to residents in the affected areas to boil their drinking water sourced from faucets for at least 25 minutes as a precautionary measure. Boiling kills bacteria that cause such waterborne diseases such as diarrhea.

The Manila Health Department has fielded medical teams and stock health centers in the affected areas with Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) and antibacterial medicine for treatment of those infected with disease.

Atienza also said that Maynilad Water Services Inc. continues to undertake preventive measures such as placing additional chlorine in the water pipes, searching and plugging leaks and increasing pressure in the water lines and dismantling of illegal connections.

He added that he has also urged the water utility company to accelerate the rehabilitation of the water lines to prevent any further cases of intestinal ailments such as gastroenteritis.

"We are closely monitoring and coordinating with Maynilad to ensure that they will take the necessary precautionary measure when conducting repair and maintenance work," Atienza said.

MWSI president Rafael Alunan and Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) representative Eduardo Santos and other officials of the Manila government conducted an ocular inspection in the area affected by the water contamination.

According to Dr. Clemente Boyet Gabriel, the city government recorded a total of 242 cases of severe diarrhea in at least eight streets in Tondo.

San Gabriel identified the fourth fatality as 40-year-old Arnulfo Banayo. The three other fatalities were earlier identified as Aquilino Manalo Sarmiento, 70, Lucien Respal, 56 and Redeemer Manabat, 7.

"There was an unusual number of diarrhea and gastroenteritis between Oct. 24 to 27. We have contained that," San Gabriel said. Close Call

One mother said she could have lost a daughter last Sunday had they delayed rushing her to the San Lazaro Hospital (SLH) for another hour.

Virginia Bernardo, 61, of 1879 F. Varona, Tondo, Manila, said that they never thought that her daughter Marvin, 33, was on the brink of death when she arrived at the SLH because of dehydration caused by profuse diarrhea and vomitting.

"She collapsed at home after a bout with diarrhea and vomitting. According to the doctors, she could have died had we delayed bringing her to the hospital," she said.

The young Bernardo was among the 125 Tondo residents rushed to the SLH over the past week because of diarrea and cholera.

Cholera was confirmed by the Department of Health (DOH) as the cause of the illness after the stool samples of the 29 SLH patients tested positive for "vibrio cholerae," the bacteria causing cholera.

Bernardo added that her daughter started manifesting the cholera symptoms on Sunday morning shortly after she woke up.

Another patient, 49-year-old Alicia Jimenez of Velasco street, said dirty and foul-smelling water has been coming out from their pipes for the past two weeks.

"The water pressure in our area was quite low. I believe that the urinary tract infection I had before was caused by contaminated water," Jimenez added.

Water firm probing Tondo contamination By Katherine Adraneda The Philippine Star 10/30/2003

Maynilad Water Services Inc. yesterday deployed water tankers to ration water in at least six streets affected by the disease outbreak in Tondo even as as it continues to investigate the contamination of water in the area.

In an emergency meeting held yesterday morning, the Mayniladís Crisis Management Team (CMT) mapped out measures to effectively contain the outbreak and put an end to it as soon as possible.

Maynilad president Rafael Alunan III,said that on top of the 16 water tankers that would ration water in the affected areas, other initiatives include the improvement of water pressure to flush out contaminants in portions of the water network affected by illegal water connections and water pumps; deployment of five mobile chlorinators to neutralize suspected contaminants, and round-the-clock monitoring of water quality; disconnection of illegal connections; and immediate repair of 235 leaks caused by illegal connections.

Mayniladís plan of action is being backed up by the local government of Manila, Western Police District and the Department of Health (DOH).

At noon, Mayniladís CMT conducted an on-site inspection while Maynilad quality control personnel conducted interviews with some victims confined at the Mary Johnston Hospital.

The interviews revealed that victims drank bottled water drawn from a refilling station, which is now being investigated as a possible source of the contamination, Maynilad said.

A command post manned by both Maynilad and Manila City Hall personnel has been made operational in the affected areas.

"Maynilad is very concerned about this unfortunate incident and expresses its sincerest sympathy to the families who have been affected. The company stands by its obligations as spelled out under its concession agreement with the government," Alunan said. "Maynilad is watching the Tondo situation very carefully. Maynilad takes this opportunity to assure its customers that its water is chlorinated and potable throughout the network and exceeds Philippine and international standards for drinking water."

According to Maynilad, the Tondo Foreshore Area was developed by the National Housing Authority as a low-cost residential area around 30 years ago on reclaimed land that was used as a dumping ground for garbage.

Former Public Works minister and MWSS administrator Aber Canlas, now a consultant of Maynilad, said that the water pipes used were substandard PVC pipes and Polybutylene tubings.

This, the water utility said, is suspected to be a major cause for the loss of water supply and pressure, prompting residents to instead resort to illegal connections and water pumps, which ultimately suck contaminants into the water system.

Included in the coverage of the Maynilad water services is the western portion of Greater Metro Manila area.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved