Before the pandemic hit, there was first an epidemic in the Philippines. From January to July 2019, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 146,062 dengue cases in the country—98% higher than that of the previous year. Because of this spike in cases and 622 deaths, a national dengue epidemic was declared to better mitigate both the causes and effects of the disease.

Dengue wreaks the worst havoc during the rainy season, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. With the country frequently experiencing monsoon rains and about 20 tropical cyclones a year, DOH introduced its health campaign against WILD Diseases—an acronym for common illnesses during the rainy season. 


Photo from DOH Bicol’s Facebook page



According to Dr. Lionel Peters, a public health physician, water-borne and foot diseases are caused by the ingestion of contaminated water or food. Examples of these diseases include:

“Water-borne diseases are usually bacterial or viral,” said Dr. Peters. “Diarrhea is its most common symptom, but patients can also experience fever, muscle pain and vomiting.” These illnesses are widespread during the rainy season, which compromises sanitation and access to safe drinking water. 

Dr. Peters, also a doctor to the barrios, has seen first-hand how these diseases affect Filipinos living in remote areas. “There are so many places where people don’t have sanitation facilities and toilets. This system makes it easy for human waste to contaminate water sources, which is how people get sick. Water-borne diseases can kill through dehydration, especially among children and those with an weak immune system.” 

During the rainy season, Dr. Peters and his team make it a point to visit barangays to remind residents to do the following:



Aileen Espiritu, program manager of the DOH’s National Aedes-Borne Viral Disease Prevention and Control, stated that influenza-like illnesses are lung diseases caused by the influenza or flu virus. 

Because flu symptoms are similar to those of COVID-19, Espiritu offered this guide:

Influenza (flu)COVID-19
Symptoms appear 1-5 days after exposure to the virus.Symptoms appear after 5 days or more after exposure to the virus.
Its main symptom is severe coughing. This may be accompanied by fever and symptoms, which last for 1-7 days.Usual symptoms include fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, muscle pain, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, and the possible loss of taste and smell.
Flu can lead to complications like bronchitis and lung infection. It may be fatal.According to WebMD, those with both COVID-19 and comorbidities may end up with pneumonia, acute respiratory failure, acute cardiac injury and many others.  COVID-19 may be fatal.


Because flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, Espiritu recommended taking the RT-PCR test for COVID-19 to determine the disease. “To ensure our safety and that of our loved ones, we should always remember to quarantine or isolate ourselves while waiting for our swab test results,” she said in a mix of Filipino and English. “This prevents us from spreading the virus.”


Leptospirosis is prevalent in urban places. (photo by Jilson Tiu/Greenpeace)



According to Dr. Peters, leptospirosis is caused by bacteria found in animal urine, particularly from rats. “When we cross a flooded area contaminated with rat urine and we have wounds or a break in the skin, the bacteria can enter our bodies and cause infection.” The most common symptom of leptospirosis is fever. “So, if you have fever two days after your flood exposure, consult a doctor right away. We want to keep the infection from progressing and causing complications.”

Complications, which include kidney failure may cause death. Dr. Peters stated the other common symptoms of leptospirosis aside from fever:


“The best way to avoid leptospirosis is to avoid flood exposure, especially if you have wounds and skin breaks. Preventive measures include preparedness. If you live in a flood-prone area, make sure you’re protected. Even before the rainy season comes, invest in rain boots and protective clothing to prevent flood water from touching your skin,” said Dr. Peters. He added that leptospirosis is rampant in urban areas. This is why children should not be allowed playing in flood water.



According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dengue “is transmitted by female mosquitoes mainly of the species Aedes aegypti.” Though dengue is at its peak during the rainy season, Espiritu said it is present any time of the year. “When the rains come from July to October, the mosquitoes’ breeding sites multiply. The dengue-carrying mosquitoes prefer dark places with stagnant water.”

Like the other WILD diseases, an early medical consultation is vital to prevent dengue from worsening. “If you’ve had fever for 2-7 days and experiencing at least two of its symptoms, set an appointment with a doctor right away,” advised Espiritu. She shared the following dengue symptoms:


From the declaration of the National Dengue Epidemic in 2019, DOH data showed that there was an 81% decrease in dengue cases and deaths in 2020. Espiritu largely attributed this success to the enhancement of DOH’s 4S strategy.


Photo from DOH Bicol’s Facebook page


  1. Search and destroy mosquito-breeding sites.

Anything that holds stagnant water inside and outside your homes should be emptied regularly. These include tire tubes, basins and flower vases. “If you have to store water because of water interruptions, make sure that your containers have lids so mosquitoes can’t use them as breeding places,” Espiritu said. “Make sure your surroundings are clean. Recycle or dispose of containers in and outside your homes so they won’t catch rain water.”


  1. Self-protection

Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and insect repellent to ward off mosquito bites.


  1. Seek early consultation.

Early prevention prevents dengue or any other disease from escalating. “We understand that many of us hesitate to go to clinics or hospitals because of COVID-19. But we have tele-consultations wherein doctors can advise you on your illness.


  1. Support fogging or spraying. 

According to DOH, this is “only done in hotspot areas in anticipation of increased infectious diseases, especially during the rainy season.”

Recently, two barangays in South Cotabato were placed under a state of calamity due to the dengue. But Espiritu assured the public that the declaration was a proactive measure to contain and prevent the further spread of the disease. “Our health development centers and local government units (LGUs) immediately acted on the issue. We do our vectors surveillance and fogging operations, which have 3 to 4 cycles every 7 days. We do targeted indoor and outdoor residual spraying that have 3 cycles every 4 months. We also give NS1 antigen tests among suspected dengue cases.” Espiritu added that the 4S strategy is carried out as a “4 p.m. habit” since it is at this time when dengue-causing mosquitoes are most active.

Since 2019, Espiritu said that fast lanes for dengue patients have been established in health facilities. As to the fear of contracting COVID-19 through mosquito bites, Espiritu explained, “According to WHO and CDC, COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites.”


How to stay healthy during the rainy season

As Espiritu said, it is doubly difficult to get sick during the pandemic. The adage stays true: Prevention is better than cure. “We can avoid these diseases with simple measures,” she said. These include:


The WILD diseases may be virulent, but as Dr. Peters put it, “They can be easily prevented if we are alert and armed with the right information.” Meanwhile, Espiritu stressed the importance of being responsible for our own health. “We should prioritize our health, so we can be productive citizens. Being healthy also means protecting our loved ones.”


Watch the full interview of Panayam sa Panahon TV: Paano Maiiwasan Ngayong Tag-Ulan at May Pandemya? here.

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After the hot and humid weather, everyone anticipates the cool-down effect brought by rains. But despite the relief it brings, the wet season also poses numerous threats to health. Arm yourself against the top three diseases that proliferate during rainy season.


Dengue is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, which propagate during the rainy season as these inhabit areas with stagnant water.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus are the primary and secondary carriers of the virus, respectively. They breed even in the small amounts of water in storage units such as tanks, flower vases, cisterns and backyard litter.
Based on the latest report from DOH, from January to June 2015, a total of 32, 440 suspected dengue cases were reported nationwide. Majority of cases were male at 54%. A total of 105 deaths were recorded.
Dengue can be detected with its symptoms, such as the sudden onset of high fever which may last from 2 to 7 days, joint and muscle pain and pain behind the eyes, weakness, skin rashes, nose bleeding, abdominal pain, vomiting, dark-colored stools and difficulty in breathing.
The DOH reminds the public to take note of its proper treatment, prevention and control.

• Do not give aspirin for fever.
• Increase intake of water or rehydrate a dengue suspect.
• If symptoms persist for 2 or more days, bring the patient to the nearest hospital.

Prevention and Control
Follow the “4-S” against Dengue
1. Search and destroy.rain
• Cover water drums and pails.
• Replace water in flower vases regularly.
• Clean gutters of leaves and debris.
• Collect and dispose all unusable tin cans, jar, bottles and other items that can collect and hold water.

2. Self protection measures
• Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
• Use mosquito repellant every day.

3. Seek early consultation.
• Consult the doctor immediately if fever persists after 2 days and rashes appear.

4. Say yes to fogging when there is an impending outbreak or a hotspot.

In tropical countries like the Philippines, leptospirosis is rampant during the rainy season when there is a higher chance of contact with water contaminated by rat urine or feces. The bacteria require a wet environment in order to live. Caused by the pathogenic leptospira species of bacteria, leptospirosis can be contracted by swallowing contaminated food, or skin contact with contaminated water. Cuts, blisters and abrasions on the skin can serve as points of entry for the bacteria.
The early stages of the disease may include high fever, muscle pain, chills, and redness in the eye, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea and rashes.
DOH reports show that a total of 291 suspect leptospirosis cases were reported from January to June 2015. Most cases were recorded from Region VI, National Capital Region, Region III and Region II.

• Take antibiotics duly prescribed by a physician.
• Early consultation

Prevention and Control
• Avoid swimming or wading in potentially contaminated water or floodwater.
• Use proper protection, like boots and gloves, when work requires exposure to contaminated water.
• Drain potentially contaminated water.
• Control rodents in the household by using rat-traps or rat poison and maintaining cleanliness in the house.

Influenza is a viral infection that targets the respiratory system. A study conducted by the US National Institutes of Health shows that influenza tends to occur during the rainy season in the tropics. Rain and humidity are the key factors in the tropical regions.
According to DOH, influenza is characterized by fever, headache, sore throat and cough. The incubation period is between 1 to 3 days. Influenza is an airborne disease and can spread within a crowded population.
A total of 47,482 influenza-like illness cases were reported nationwide from January to July 2015. Reports from DOH shows that this is 1.7% higher compared to that of last year (46, 696). Majority of cases were male with 51.4%, and belonged to the 1 to 4 years age group.

• Give influenza vaccinations preferably annually.
• Minimize contact with a person who has influenza.
• Avoid crowded places.
• Distance yourself at least 1 meter from people who are coughing.
• Cover mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing to prevent the spread of the virus.
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water

The rains may provide a touch of romance of melancholy to our days, but it pays to be aware of their downside. At any time of the year, we must always pay attention to our health, since having a strong immune system prevents any illness that come our way—all year round.

We monitor the weather not only to plan our activities, but also to protect our health. Along with the rains comes a downpour of diseases, ranging from easily curable to downright deadly. Here are some of the rainy season-related illnesses and the smart ways to avoid them.

Photo taken by Jeni Villaraza after the passing of Tropical Storm Maring in Ortigas, Pasig City
Photo taken by Jeni Villaraza after the passing of Tropical Storm Maring in Ortigas, Pasig City

1. Dengue fever

An acute viral infection acquired from the bite of a female Aedes aegypti mosquito at daytime. Aside from four dengue viruses, this mosquito also transmits chikungunya and yellow fever. Anyone can get dengue, but this fatal disease usually affects infants and children in tropical and subtropical countries. Symptoms include the sudden onset of high fever that may last from two to seven days, joint and muscle pains, skin rashes, nose bleeding, abdominal pain, and vomiting.

2. Leptospirosis

A bacterial infection from rodents and other vermin. This is commonly transmitted through rodent bites, ingestion of contaminated food and exposure to flood with urine or feces of infected animals. Apart from open wounds, the bacteria also enter the system through the eyes, nose and mouth. Fever, muscle pain, headache and reddish eyes are some of its symptoms.

3. Cholera

A serious intestinal infection transmitted by consuming food or drinking water filled with Vibrio cholerae, a bacterium usually found in human waste. This causes watery diarrhea and vomiting, leading to severe dehydration.

4. Influenza

Also known as flu, it’s a viral infection affecting those with weak immune systems. This affects the respiratory system and triggers chills, fever, sore throat, runny nose, coughs and fatigue.

5. Hepatitis A

An ancient disease in the liver known to be very infectious. This can be transmitted through food and water contaminated with feces and urine from an infected patient. Abdominal discomfort, tiredness, dark urine and fever are signs, among others, but symptoms in children tend to be so mild that they may go unnoticed.

6. Typhoid

An acute illness caused by Salmonellae typhi bacteria from the fecal waste of a carrier. Infected people suffer from poor appetite, headaches, diarrhea and lethargy. This disease has been a public health issue in developing countries.

7. Cold and Cough

A viral infection that makes nose and throat inflamed and vulnerable to bacteria. If these become severe, they might lead to serious infections such as sinusitis, ear infections and bronchitis.

8. Scabies

A contagious skin infection causing severe itching and allergic reactions after a tiny parasite called mite Sarcoptes scabiei has bitten into the skin. It is transmittable through direct skin contact.

9. Athlete’s Foot

A fungal and transmittable infection marked by a flaky, red rash that cracks and causes sores in the feet. Sweaty shoes are the breeding ground of this infection, but it can also be acquired through contaminated swimming pools and floodwater.


Maintain cleanliness. Proper and frequent hand washing is a must, especially before eating your meals and after using the toilet. It is also important to observe proper disposal of garbage and maintain the cleanliness of comfort rooms.

Always bring an umbrella. An umbrella protects you from the weather, rain or shine.

Use mosquito repellants. Aside from applying repellant, you can also wear long sleeves, pants and socks before going out of the house and before sleeping.

Dress according to the weather. Use a jacket if the weather is cold and rainy to avoid common colds and flu.

Dispose of stagnant water. Remove stored rainwater in old tires, cans, water containers, jars, bottles and other items that collect water. Replace the water in flower vases once a week, and cover water drums and pails to prevent mosquitos from breeding.

Get a flu vaccine. Guard yourselves and be protected from different illnesses preventable by vaccination.

Eat healthy. Having a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about doing regular exercise; it also means eating nutritious food. During rainy days, it’s important to boil drinking water and eat foods that are properly prepared. Cover food containers and store them in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.

Avoid crowded places. If going out is necessary, wear a facemask or cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief in crowded places to avoid getting viruses.

Do not cross or swim in floodwater. Avoid making contact with flooded areas especially when you have an open wound. If it’s necessary to cross floodwaters, wear boots and thoroughly clean your body afterwards.

Consult a doctor. It is important to bring the patient to the nearest hospital or health center to consult his or her symptoms.