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Polio, dengue outbreaks could be connected to water crisis — Defensor

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Did the water crisis affecting many parts of the country contribute to the outbreaks of diseases such as polio and dengue?

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor thinks so.

“Running water is essential for good health. Household sanitation and personal hygiene tend to suffer whenever there is lack of water,” Defensor said in a statement.

“We imagine the severe water supply interruptions between March to early August – mainly due to dams across the country drying up on account of the prolonged drought – played a part in the spread of diseases,” the former environment chief said.

“The reality is, lack of water can force people, especially in disadvantaged communities, to defecate in the open – even in places where children may be playing,” Defensor said.

Defensor made the statement shortly after the Department of Health (DOH) declared a polio epidemic.

The DOH said on Thursday it discovered a polio case in a 3-year-old girl in Lanao del Sur – the first since the country was declared polio-free in October 2000.

Polio is a contagious illness spread through person-to-person contact, primarily via the oral-fecal route. An infected person who does not practice proper hand or body hygiene passes the infection to another individual, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Polioviruses grow in the intestinal system and are shed through feces.

Wild poliovirus usually spread in areas with poor water and sewage sanitation, putting unvaccinated people at risk, the WHO said.

Besides vaccination, both the WHO and the DOH recommend the thorough and frequent washing of hands with soap and water, or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and zero open defecation, to prevent the spread of polio.

Meanwhile, Defensor said lack of running water also increases the hazard of water-borne tropical disease such as dengue.

“When people are forced to hoard water in their homes, the risk of household contamination also increases,” he said.

“Plus, improperly stored water can serve as breeding ground of mosquitos that are potential carriers of dengue, malaria and other diseases,” Defensor said.

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