By GERRY LEE GORIT
If there was intent to deliberately contaminate Medina’s water source, all of the residents in the municipality would have been afflicted by diarrhea, said Dr. David Mendoza, chief of the Epidemiology, Surveillance and Disaster Response Unit of the Department of Health in Northern Mindanao (DOH-10), on Thursday.
A letter from a concerned citizen, sent to the office of Misamis Oriental Jose Mari Pelaez, has accused the town’s water provider of orchestrating the outbreak.
The epidemic, which started last June 29, affected 452 residents in four of the 19 villages in Medina. As of July 13, only 29 persons have been admitted at the local medical facility for diarrhea. Based on the 2015 data, Medina has a total population of 32, 907 residents.
At the height of the outbreak, two people had died, although only one was related to diarrhea. The other died from a heart illness.
Mendoza said majority of the cases occurred in two villages, in North Poblacion and South Poblacion. Many residents in the barangays of Cabug and Maanas also suffered from diarrhea.
It’s possible that bacteria from human or animal wastes and runoff of contaminants from the highland or sea were the cause of the diarrhea outbreak, he added.
At present, the DOH has yet to release the result of the water sample. The agency’s finding will be the official result of the tests.
Unless bioterrorism is involved, Mendoza said, it’s possible that there was sabotage.
Dr. Maria Alma Enriquez, the municipal health officer, said most of the samples they took have tested positive of E. coli bacteria. A private company based in Medina has volunteered to undertake the testing of samples of the contaminated water.
During a public hearing called by the Misamis Oriental Provincial Board’s health committee on Thursday, Enriquez announced that the diarrhea infection in Medina is already “under control” saying that the local government unit has provided safe drinking water to affected households.
The aging pipelines of the Medina Rural Water and Sanitation Cooperative (Merwasco) could have also contributed to the seepage of contaminants into the residents’ drinking water.
Engr. Isagani Barcelona, Merwasco manager, said upgrading the water utility’s facilities has remained one of the cooperative’s challenges, adding that lack of funds have prevented them from replacing its main pipelines, which are already 30 years old.
At the onset of the outbreak, Medina Mayor Donato Chan said they have put in place measures to prevent the spread of the diarrhea to other villages in the town, particularly cutting off the distribution lines that were identified to have been contaminated as well as ordering Merwasco to conduct regular flushing of its pipes.
Merwasco is serving 11 of the town’s 19 barangays with about 3,200 member-consumers.
The mayor has also instructed residents to boil their drinking water before consuming it. Aside from that, the local government has initiated the putting of chlorine to other water sources such as dug wells.
“We have done our best to address the problem,” Chan said during the committee hearing.
Dr. Jerie Calingasan, the provincial health officer, other municipalities must learn and replicate what the local government of Medina did to respond to the outbreak.
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