A senator has called for the creation of an agency to deal with public health after almost 3,000 people fell ill in the Philippines.

Senator Win Gatchalian is co-author of the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) Act, which seeks to create such an agency. The proposed center would be the technical authority on forecasting, analysis, strategy, and standards development for preventing and controlling all diseases of public health importance and health security events.

Baguio City has recorded 2,764 cases of gastroenteritis this month. Initial results of water testing showed evidence of contamination.

The Baguio City Public Information Office said a peak of cases was recorded on January 8. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.

Samples from 62 establishments, households, and institutions had been tested as of January 12 at the public health laboratory, and 18 were positive for total coliforms and eight for E. coli. A dozen positive coliform tests were from water delivery firms, and four were from food outlets.

Officials believe contaminated water is behind the illnesses but have yet to find the source of contamination.

Push to create a CDC agency
Other responsibilities of the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control would include disease surveillance and field epidemiology activities, establishing and strengthening public health laboratories, and building local capacity for surveillance and health research.

The proposals also direct provinces, cities, and municipalities to adopt and localize standards that the CDC would develop. To build capacity for disease surveillance, local government units (LGUs) would be mandated to fund and establish epidemiology and surveillance units and create positions for disease surveillance officers and field epidemiologists.

In December 2022, members of the House of Representatives approved a bill to establish the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). The agency would be under the Department of Health (DOH). The next step is approval by the Senate.

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, has also appealed to the Department of Health to help in the outbreak of acute gastroenteritis cases.

Go emphasized the need to identify the cause of the outbreak and ensure drinking water safety in affected areas. He called for the DOH to intensify its information drive, especially in schools and communities, and to identify and address any suspected contamination in drinking water sources.

The DOH has recommended boiling water for two minutes or using chlorine-based water disinfection solutions.

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