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
W IS FOR WATER-BORNE DISEASES.
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:
- typhoid fever
- acute gastroenteritis characterized by diarrhea and frequent vomiting
- dysentery or bloody diarrhea
- Hepatitis A, a liver infection caused by the hepatitis virus
“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:
- Boil water before drinking. Those living in remote places rely on wells for water. But during the rainy season, the run-off water from the mountains which may carry human and animal wastes end up in wells. To ensure clean drinking water, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommends filtering cloudy water through a clean cloth or paper towel before bringing it a roiling boil for 3 minutes.
- Frequently wash hands. “Hand washing is one of the best measures against disease. Proper hand sanitation is the key, as well as the proper sanitation of the body,” said Dr. Peters.
- Practice proper food handling and storage. Wash hands before touching food, and always store food in clean containers. To prevent food spoilage, cook only what you can consume immediately. This is especially advisable in places without refrigeration.
- Maintain clean surroundings. This minimizes food and water contamination, and discourages pests which may carry diseases.
I IS FOR INFLUENZA-LIKE ILLNESS.
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:
|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)
L IS FOR LEPTOSPIROSIS
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:
- muscle ache
- body pain
- severe headache
- eye redness
- abdominal pain
- vomiting and diarrhea
“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.
D IS FOR DENGUE.
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:
- Feeling of being weak
- Muscle and joint pain
- Pain at the back of the eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Red or itchy skin
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
- 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.”
Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and insect repellent to ward off mosquito bites.
- 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.
- 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:
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Getting enough rest
- Boiling water from the faucet before drinking
- Consulting a doctor when feeling sick
- Being informed about the diseases
- Keeping your surroundings clean
- Following health protocols against COVID-19
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.”
Just three days after the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that La Niña had ended, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) announced the onset of the rainy season last June 4, 2021.
From October 2020 to March this year, a weak and moderate La Niña, which refers to the cooling of ocean surface temperatures, prevailed in the country. Coupled with the Northeast Monsoon or Amihan, it was predicted to bring above-normal rain conditions, which were seen in previous typhoons. On November 1 last year, Super Typhoon Rolly, 2020’s strongest tropical cyclone in the world, devastated 8 regions including Bicol. Floods, mudslides and storm surges affected 2 million people. In the same month on the 11th, Typhoon Ulysses struck Central Luzon, causing massive floods and landslides.
Now, the Southwest Monsoon or Habagat—warm and moist air that speeds up cloud formation that causes rainfall—has become the dominant weather system in the country. This is one of the factors that prompted PAGASA to declare the start of the rainy season. In a press statement, PAGASA administrator Dr. Vincent Malano explained, “The passage of Tropical Storm Dante and the occurrence of widespread rainfall in the last five days for areas under Type 1 climate confirm the onset of the rainy season. Intermittent rains associated with the Southwest Monsoon will continue to affect Metro Manila and the western section of the country.” The western parts of Luzon, Mindoro, Negros and Palawan fall under the Type 1 climate category.
Massive flooding in Romblon due to the torrential rains brought by #DantePH. (Photos from PIA-Romblon)
The End of La Niña Does Not Spell Safety
With La Niña ending last June 1, WMO said that “neutral conditions are likely to dominate the tropical Pacific in the next few months.” PAGASA hydrologist Rosalie Pagulayan further explains, “There’s no La Niña, no El Niño, which means wind conditions have returned to normal. So, we can expect a normal amount of rainfall from June to September in the whole country.”
But as with everything related to the weather, nothing is set in stone. In WMO’s press release, the chance of neutral conditions continuing until July is at 78%. This decreases to 55% by August to October, while conditions are uncertain for the rest of the year.
Despite this high chance of neutral conditions, PAGASA warned that “The probability of near to above-normal rainfall conditions is high in the next two months (June-July.) The public and all concerned agencies are advised to take precautionary measures against the impacts of the rainy season.” Simply said, the end of La Niña does not mean that the country will be safe from tropical cyclone risks. “We can’t discard the possibility of extreme events,” says Pagulayan. “Our mindset should always be disaster preparedness.”
The Philippines is the country most-visited by tropical cyclones in the world. Here, the rainy season is synonymous with typhoons and floods. “This month of June, PAGASA forecasts that we may experience 1 to 3 tropical cyclones. Usually, tropical cyclone occurrences peak from July to September.” Though PAGASA announced there will be monsoon breaks or non-rainy periods which may last for days or weeks, Pagulayan stressed that we are currently in the thick of typhoon season.
How Manmade Activities Worsen Natural Disasters
But despite the absence of La Niña, Tropical Storm Dante caused flash floods and landslides in Visayas and Mindanao earlier this month. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported 11 deaths and over 122,000 people affected. Damage in agriculture was pegged at over ₱90 million, while infrastructure damage was over ₱130 million. “The amount of rainfall Dante produced was staggering and unexpected,” admitted Pagulayan. “In my opinion, the change in landscape may have been a major contributor.”
Aftermath of tropical storm #DantePH at Barangay Cabil-isan in Daram, Samar. (Photos courtesy of Slug Rosales)
Pagulayan refers to the altered natural environment brought about by human acts such as deforestation and development projects. In an earlier interview, Dr. Renato Solidum Jr, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, and undersecretary for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate explained how manmade activities can worsen disaster impacts. “Landslides occur in steep places or those with soft ground. Destroying our mountains through deforestation or housing developments leads to faster erosion and lowland flooding. The eroded soil along with improper waste disposal fill up our rivers and drainages, also causing floods.”
WMO echoed this statement by saying that now that La Niña has ended, climate events are now in the hands of human-induced climate change. “La Niña has a temporary global cooling effect, which is typically strongest in the second year of the event. This means that 2021 has got off to a relatively cool start – by recent standards. This should not lull us into a false sense of security that there is a pause in climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
Taalas warned that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere remain high, fueling global warming. In fact, WMO predicted a 90% chance of at least one year between 2021 to 2025 to become the warmest on record. Soaring temperatures mean warmer oceans, which spell disaster. This, Pagulayan confirmed in a previous article. “Warmer oceans result to more evaporation. When there’s more moisture in the atmosphere, this may result in intensified tropical cyclones,” she said. “This means stronger rains, storm surges, and the possibility of tornadoes. Coastal communities will be inundated even those that do not usually experience floods. Heat waves may occur. While some parts of the country may experience droughts, other parts will receive excess rainfall. The greatest impact is on food production.”
Preparedness as a Personal Responsibility
It’s the second year we, Filipinos, find ourselves grappling with both the typhoon season and the COVID-19 pandemic. While this makes the management of evacuation centers challenging, Pagulayan stresses the importance of being pro-active when it comes to preparedness. “Let’s not rely solely on the government for our safety. Let’s ask ourselves what we an contribute.” She gives the following tips:
- Coordinate and work with your community’s disaster manager. Your community’s topography and needs are unique. You, your fellow-residents and barangay leaders can best map out a preparedness plan for your community.
- While staying alert to advisories released by your community’s disaster office, it’s also advisable to read updates from national agencies. Read the reports and listen to expert interviews. The additional knowledge boosts your preparedness by helping you form a bigger picture of possible scenarios.
- If you need to evacuate, always remember to bring a Go Bag. “This includes everything you need for the first 6 hours in the evacuation center,” says Pagulayan. Keeping yourself safe as an individual is a form of community service.
As we welcome the month of June, we also officially bid goodbye to the Tag-Init Season as PAGASA declared the onset of the Rainy Season yesterday evening.
In a press statement, the weather bureau said that widespread rainfall has been observed these past few days. Most parts of the country are likely to experience near to above-normal rainfall conditions in June to July. However, breaks from the rains will occur, possibly lasting for several days to weeks due to the persistence of the Ridge of High-Pressure Area in the North Pacific.
In an interview with PAGASA Weather Forecaster Gener Quitlong, the following criteria for declaring the onset of tag-ulan have been satisfied:
– A total rainfall amount of 25 millimeters or more in three consecutive days which must be recorded at no less than five of these stations: Laoag, Vigan, Dagupan, Iba, Mindoro Occidental, Ambulong, Iloilo, and Metro Manila
– Widespread rainfall due to the prevailing winds brought by the Southwest Monsoon or Hanging Habagat
– Daily thunderstorm activity
To help you stay protected on rainy days, make sure you have the following:
While some parts of Luzon are already experiencing rains, PAGASA clarified that “tag-ulan” season has yet to begin in the country.
In a press conference held at the PAGASA Weather and Flood Forecasting Center on Wednesday afternoon, the bureau confirmed the start of the southwesterly windflow or weak habagat that brings rains in Palawan and Mindoro provinces. However, only three out of the eight monitoring stations of PAGASA under Climate Type 1 have satisfied the established criteria: a total of 25 millimeters or more of rain, with three consecutive days having at least 1 millimeter of rainfall per day.
According to PAGASA, the onset of rainy season may be declared between May 28 to June 8.
Here’s the report:
Now that the rainy season has arrived, expect that #NoLigo, will start to flood the social media as well—whether in jest or in all seriousness.
When the rains come bringing with it the cold weather, one is tempted to just burrow into the bed covers, forgetting all responsibilities, even the ones involving personal hygiene.
But is it really okay to skip showers during this season, since we don’t perspire and it’s extremely cold?
According to Dr. Karen Elysse J. Beltran of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, even if we don’t perspire, bacteria thrive on our skin. If that isn’t enough reason to still take showers on rainy days, Beltran also reminds us that during the rainy season, we are prone to respiratory diseases such as cough and colds, as well as diarrhea. Mosquitoes are also rampant during this season, possibly carrying diseases. That’s why poor personal hygiene may cost you your health.
Aside from taking a bath everyday, here are more tips to help you stay healthy this rainy season:
It is not advisable to eat street foods. Water and air-borne diseases are usually caused by food prepared in open-air food carts. It’s better if you cook food, especially fruits and vegetables, at home with the right preparation.
Wash your hands.
Your hands are a hotspot for germs and bacteria. Washing your hands properly before handling food—whether cooking or eating—ensures that you don’t ingest the nasty stuff that can cause diseases.
Always have a handkerchief with you.
Cover your mouth and nose with a clean hanky to protect you from catching or spreading diseases in crowded places.
Avoid sharing personal things.
Sharing your personal things like towels, soap, hairbrushes and clothes with other people also means sharing bacteria and germs.
No matter the season, we should remain vigilant about personal hygiene. Health threats come indiscriminately, and it is our responsibility to make sure that we’re always equipped to fight them.
– By Camille O. Javines, PanahonTV intern
If you’re a pluviophile or a person who loves the rain, you probably jumped for joy when PAGASA officially announced the onset of the rainy season last May 24. It’s also enough reason for ceraunophiles (people who are fond of thunderstorms) to celebrate!
According to PAGASA Weather Forecaster Mr. Gener Quitlong, the weather doesn’t depend on any specific day, but on the prevailing weather systems, such as the easterlies or a low pressure area.
Rains can also be influenced by an area’s state of urbanization. The more urbanized a place is, the more manmade pollutants it has, which may influence the weather.
“Cities impact rainfall and can create their own rain and storms,” Dr. Marshall Shepherd, an Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Geography at the University of Georgia in the U.S. explained.
But there may be some truth to the observation that it tends to rain more on weekends. Dr. Randall Cerveny of the Arizona State University, together with Geography Professor Robert Balling, examined rainfall in the Atlantic Ocean between 1979 and 1995 by analyzing global satellite data. Though the ocean tides were not affected by the day of the week, they found that the US was soaked during weekends. “Records from monitoring stations showed that levels of two urban pollutants, ozone and carbon monoxide, rose as the weekend approached,” Cerveny stated. On weekdays, human activities, such as daily commute and the use of heavy-duty office appliances are its peak, making the cities cesspools of pollution. This build up of pollutants may have taken effect by the time the weekend rolls around, giving rise to the possibility of rain.
But regardless if it’s the weekend or not, you know what to do this rainy season: bring umbrellas and raincoats, and most important of all, think of alternative and creative ways to enjoy your weekends in case it rains!
– By Angelyssa Lopez, PanahonTV intern
After the sweltering heat of the past few months, we now brace ourselves for rains asPAGASA declared the onset of the rainy season yesterday afternoon, May 24, 2016.
In a press statement, the weather bureau said that widespread rainfall has been observed these past few days. Winds, which previously moved from the east, have now changed from a south to southwest direction, indicating the shift from dry to wet season.
Due to the warm and moist characteristics of the “habagat” or the southwest monsoon, rains and thunderstorms will be frequently experienced in several parts of the country. However, PAGASA clarified that tag-ulan will be mostly experienced over the Climate Type 1 areas, covering the western parts of Luzon and Visayas.
Last year, the onset of tag-ulan was announced on June 23, 2015— delayed compared to this year. PAGASA Weather Forecaster Glaiza Escullar said there is nothing unusual with this because the rainy season normally occurs during the last week of May until early June.
“Mas maaga nga ito compared noong nakaraang taon dahil maaga ring nag-umpisa ang onset sa bahagi ng India, Bangladesh at Myanmar… at kapag nag-south to southwest na rin ang hangin sa bahagi ng China. South to southwest na rin po ang hangin lalo na sa western side ng ating bansa,” Escullar said in an interview with Panahon TV.
Meanwhile, here are the criteria for declaring the onset of tag-ulan:
– A five-day period within April, May, June or July with a total rainfall amount of 25 millimeters or more with three consecutive days having at least 1 millimeter of rainfall per day. This must be recorded at no less than five of these stations: Laoag, Vigan, Dagupan, Iba, Mindoro Occidental, Ambulong, Iloilo, and Metro Manila.
– At least two out of three stations in Metro Manila must have satisfied the first criterion simultaneously.
– Prevailing winds in the Western Philippines should have westerly to southwesterly components. The southwest monsoon,commonly known as hanging habagat, should also be the dominant wind system.
Although some of these criteria are yet to be satisfied, PAGASA decided to declare the onset ahead of time to prepare the public for heavier rains in the coming days. Escullar added that within the next three days, there is a big possibility that all the criteria will be observed.
Now that tag-ulan has arrived, all are advised to regularly bring umbrellas and raincoats. Know more about what to bring in “TAG-ULAN” Checklist: Rainy Day Essentials.
El Niño is expected to return to a neutral condition by the end of July. But, there is still a 50% chance that La Niña will develop in the Pacific Ocean. It will possibly affect the country in the last quarter of 2016 (October- December).
Know more: El Niño to end, La Niña to follow?
Though we are already halfway into the month, there is still no trace of southwest monsoon or “hanging habagat” within the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR). According to PAGASA, habagat is characterized as warm and moist air that affects the country, particularly the western section. This is also one of the “tag-ulan indicators.”
It was on June 10 last year when the weather bureau announced the onset of rainy season. But as of now, PAGASA Weather Forecaster Gener Quitlong said that the habagat has not yet been observed in the country. Though we are about to step into the 2nd half of June, the onset of rainy season might come a little late compared to the previous year.
Quitlong added that the ridge of the high pressure area (HPA) and the influence of the weak El Niño are just some of the factors for the delay of “tag-ulan.” He also explained that a low pressure area or tropical cyclone is needed to generate or direct the southwesterly winds towards the Philippines.
Today, the ridge of HPA continues to extend over Northern and Central Luzon while the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) is expected to affect Mindanao. This weather system is an area where winds coming from the northern and southern hemispheres meet. As winds converge, clouds are formed, bringing rains over the affected areas.
ITCZ is also considered as the breeding ground of low pressure areas that may develop into tropical cyclones. However, Quitlong said that as of now, no weather disturbance is expected to affect the country within the week.
Based on the 24-hour weather forecast of PAGASA, this weather system will dump light to moderate rains and thunderstorms, not only in Mindanao, but also over Palawan and Visayas. The rest of the country, including Metro Manila, will have generally fair weather with the chance of isolated thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening. All are advised to bring umbrellas and monitor updates from PAGASA.
Watch the interview with PAGASA Weather Forecaster Gener Quitlong:
The month of June signals the start, not only of classes, but also of the rainy season.
According to PAGASA, the onset of the rainy season will most likely commence in the second week of June. For it to be officially declared by the weather bureau, these three things need to happen:
1. A five-day period within April, May, June or July with a total rainfall amount of 25 millimeters or more with three consecutive days having at least 1 millimeter of rainfall per day. Said rainfall must be recorded at no less than five of these stations: Laoag, Vigan, Dagupan, Iba, Mindoro Occidental, Ambulong, Iloilo, and Metro Manila.
2. At least two out of three stations in Metro Manila must have satisfied the first criterion simultaneously.
3. Prevailing winds over the Western Philippines should have westerly to southwesterly components. The southwest monsoon commonly known as hanging habagat should also be the dominant wind system.
Meanwhile, most parts of the country will experience near normal rainfall. However, PAGASA Weather Forecaster Jun Galang said areas under code Yellow will have below normal or less rainfall this month. This includes Palawan, parts of Cordillera, National Capital Region (NCR), Dagupan, Zambales, Subic, Pangasinan, Tarlac and Pampanga.
Other weather systems such as Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) will be prevalent this month. This will bring light to moderate rain showers over a large part of Mindanao. This could also affect Visayas and Southern Luzon as it changes its axis.