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PIA Press Release
Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Proper handwashing more relevant now, DOH-8 says

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Jan. 4 (PIA) -– Proper handwashing is all the more relevant now in the light of the recurring rains and the recent flooding that has affected many families in the province of Leyte, Provincial Health Officer Edgardo Daya informed.

Handwashing at critical times could reduce diarrhea cases by more than 40 percent, Dr. Daya said alluding to the report received by his office that diarrheal cases have been observed at the Northwestern Leyte District Hospital in Calubian, Leyte.

The critical times to wash the hands include the periods before eating, after using the restroom, after coming in from work or play, and before food preparation, according to Dr. Daya.

Records from the DOH National Epidemiology Center showed that 9,050 Filipinos reported having suffered from acute bloody diarrhea in 2010.

Of that figure, nearly 30 percent, or 2,697 cases, were children aged 1 to 4 and at least 12 percent, or 1,143 cases, were aged 5 to 14. At least 20 people died of diarrhea.

Also in the same year, at least 99,857 Filipinos, the majority of whom were children aged 1 to 4, suffered from influenza-like illnesses. At least 21 percent of the cases involved children aged 5 to 14. The health agency recorded 162 deaths due to influenza-like diseases.

Dr. Daya encouraged the public, especially children, to develop the habit of proper handwashing, which has been proven effective against the spread of infections.

The Department of Health has been advocating that the correct way to wash the hands should take about 20 to 30 seconds, or about the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs, and this should be done at least 20 times a day.

The back of the hands, under the nails and in between fingers must be scrubbed well with soap.

Diarrhea outbreaks are more often linked to contaminated water supplies, person-to-person contact in places such as child-care centers, or "food poisoning", when people get sick from improperly processed or preserved foods contaminated with bacteria, Dr. Daya said.

In general, infections that cause diarrhea are highly contagious. Most cases can be spread to others for as long as someone has diarrhea, and some infections can be contagious even longer.

Diarrheal infections can be spread through dirty hands, contaminated food or water, some pets direct contact with fecal matter (i.e., from dirty diapers or the toilet).

Anything that the infectious germs come in contact with can become contaminated. This includes toys, changing tables, surfaces in restrooms, even the hands of someone preparing food. Kids can become infected by touching a contaminated surface, such as a toilet or toy, and then putting their fingers in their mouths, Dr. Daya added.

Diarrheal disease in general and in particular among children under five is a serious public health and development problem. In view of this, the DOH launched a national program to control diarrheal disease (CDD) in 1980.

To reduce mortality from diarrhea particularly among children under five through extensive case management utilizing oral rehydration therapy (ORT), environmental sanitation, maternal and child health, nutrition and health education activities.

In fact, the Department of Health (DOH) is set to conduct a nationwide vaccination this year against rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea among young children, making the Philippines the leader for other Asian countries in lowering infant mortality from the preventable ailment. (PIA 8)

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