Preparing for Post-Typhoon Disease Emergence: Public health in the Phillipines

In large-magnitude disasters – such as the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines – public health infrastructure is often dismantled.  Extremely poor sanitation conditions, dismantled water and sewage infrastructure, and high-density shelter facilities for victims can propagate multiple disease risks for the victims and aid workers.

Outbreaks of infectious diseases can occur 10 days to a month after a natural disaster, and displaced residents who are evacuated to crowded shelters also encourage the spread of disease, as limited resources and close quarters make transmission of bacteria and viruses responsible for colds, flu and pneumonia more likely. Still, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), no serious epidemics have emerged following natural disasters in recent years.

The typhoon may pose unique problems for controlling certain illnesses. The rainfall from the storm surge, for example, has left pools of standing water — puddles or ponds that now become breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can spread malaria. And with little or no health care services available, many of these infections may go untreated and lead to more death in coming months.

The World Health Organization is supporting the Philippines Department of Health in strengthening its early warning alert and response network to watch for disease outbreaks and other public health threats related to food scarcity, water contamination and other environmental hazards.

Find the WHO’s Guidelines for Outbreak Surveillance and Response to Humanitarian Emergencies here.

Follow the CNN Health report here.

Follow the Time Health article here.

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