The Philippine government rushed medical aid to a city south of Manila on Wednesday where an outbreak of typhoid has seen more than 1,200 people admitted to hospital, officials said.
"This is an outbreak and every outbreak is alarming," Health Secretary Francisco Duque told reporters.
AdvertisementHe said the government had established a coordinating centre in Calamba -- 60 kilometres (37 miles) south of Manila -- and was sending medical teams and aid to help local workers who were struggling to cope with the outbreak.
At the overcrowded JP Rizal Medical District Hospital in the city, sick children in soiled nappies and on intravenous drips spilled into hallways from overcrowded wards, many in makeshift cots.
The first person showing symptoms of typhoid was taken to hospital on February 21 but more than 200 patients have been admitted since Monday.
Maxima Balanes, 35, lay beside her twin toddlers Genely and Ashley on the floor of the hospital. All were hooked to IV drips and too weak to move.
"I think we got it from the water we drank," she said, adding that one of her older children was also sick but had been discharged.
Nearby, another young patient, seven-year-old Lika Rose Sadicon, held tightly to her plastic doll while propped on a small plastic chair, her eyes welling with tears.
Duque said the latest field bulleting showed that 1,262 people had been rushed to hospitals, with various typhoid-like symptoms.
Of the total, 27 cases were confirmed, while blood culture tests were being carried out on the others.
City officials in Calamba have so far not traced the source of the bacteria, Duque said.
Most residents suspect contaminated drinking water as the source, but tests carried out by city officials have "yielded negative results," Duque said.
"It is very important now for the short term for everybody in Calamba to boil their water," he said, adding that medical staff had also distributed chlorine tablets to mix with drinking water.
He said at least five of those struck down had shown complications and were beginning to show symptoms of the disease, which include severe weakness, lethargy and perforation of the intestines.
Local Red Cross administrator Rutelly Cabutin appealed for more help and said focus should now be given to help prevent a further spread of the disease.
"It hasn't stopped yet. People keep being admitted to hospitals," she said.