DOH told: El Nino a hotbedfor epidemics, prepare now


AS the coming El Nino season could be a “hotbed for epidemics,” a lawmaker on Monday urged the Department of Health to beef up its contingencies to respond to diseases typically accompanying a hot season, such as cholera, Chikungunya, and Zika virus, on top of “usual preparations for Covid-19.”

House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Joey Sarte Salceda warned that the tropical diseases can be particularly problematic.

“Global studies indicate a spike of between 2.5 percent and 28 percent in cases during El Nino activities. El Nino is a hotbed for epidemics—climate is warmer than usual, and people have less water available,” he said.

“So, we should be working on adaptations such as mandating LGUs to clean up, hospitals to probabilistically allocate resources among probably tropical diseases, and the DOH to do the coordination work and provide close guidance,” he added.

Salceda added that “El Niño and La Niña can make extreme weather events more likely in certain areas of the country. It could intensify droughts, floods and storms. So, apart from usual damage due to natural disasters, let us also expect diseases related to these hazards.”

With this, Salceda said he hopes the Senate can approve the charter of the Center for Disease Control when session resumes on May 8.

“The CDC would definitely add institutional muscle to our preparations, especially since El Nino could persist until 2024,” he said.

“Now that the Senate version has already been certified as urgent, I am hopeful that we will have a bill ready for President Marcos’s signature before he makes his second State of the Nation Address,” he added.

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, under the proposal, will “be part of a broader ecosystem of disease prevention. So it will no longer operate in a vacuum.”

“The presence of a full-time, dedicated staff for disease control and prevention would help ensure that this doesn’t get buried in bureaucratic gobbledygook,” Salceda added.

Salceda said he is more satisfied with the 19th Congress’s 3rd reading version than the one the House approved last Congress, as the CDC in this Congress is focused on communicable or infectious diseases.

“Both the emerging Senate and the approved House versions are focused on ‘Emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases’ although the House version is more explicit about measures for rapid detection of such diseases, instead of a lack of institutional focus by covering all diseases.”

“The special powers are also broader and more relevant. So, I think both the Senate and House versions already make the cut as far as health emergency response is concerned,” he said.