WHO supports the Philippine Department of Health to fight cholera in affected region of the Philippines

As summer peaks in the Philippines, a cholera outbreak has been declared in North Cotabato, a province in the southern region of the country. There have been nine deaths since the outbreak and hundreds of patients are being treated.

Cholera is a severe infection that affects the intestines when food or water contaminated with the bacterium vibrio cholera is consumed.

Once infected, common symptoms such as watery diarrhoea and vomiting may appear within a day or it may take up to five days for symptoms to occur. These symptoms often lead to severe dehydration, shock and possible death within hours if left untreated. It is crucial to seek medical attention at the nearest health center once symptoms are identified.

Safe water, good sanitation and proper hygiene are critical to preventing infection. It is important to keep surroundings clean, dispose of human waste properly, and wash hands often with soap and water. The Philippine Department of Health is also encouraging communities to chlorinate water or boil water for over three minutes when they are unsure of the water quality. A common cause of cholera outbreaks in the Philippines are contaminated water sources.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 3–5 million cholera cases and 100,000–120,000 deaths due to cholera every year. In the Philippines diarrhoea was one of the top ten causes of death in 2011. However, up to 80% of cholera cases can be successfully treated with oral rehydration salts. A two-dose oral cholera vaccine that lasts for three years is also available for travelers and people in areas where the disease is endemic.

The WHO is currently supporting the training of health professionals at the sub-national level to enhance the Philippine Integrated Disease and Surveillance System Response in order to rapidly detect and respond to these kinds of outbreaks. Together with other health partners, the WHO continues to support the Philippine Department of Health as they work to ensure that infected patients are receiving proper treatment and communities are given the information needed to prevent the spread of this disease.