A waste and pollution watch group pushed for ecological management of discards as the number of leptospirosis cases in some regions continues to soar.
Alarmed by the swelling cases of the deadly bacterial disease due to human exposure to Leptospira interrogans, the EcoWaste Coalition pressed the country’s newly-installed barangay officials to adopt waste prevention and reduction measures to avoid garbage from piling up, as well as to avert flooding caused by trash-choked waterways.
The Department of Health (DOH) had earlier ascribed the rise in leptospirosis cases to uncollected garbage and to flooding due to continuous rains with Metro Manila, Western Visayas, Caraga and the Zamboanga peninsula as the regions with most cases.
“Poor waste management attracts rodent infestation and increases the risk of human exposure to the leptospirosis-causing bacteria transmitted through rat urine,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Rats thrive in filthy surroundings such as garbage dumps where they go to find food, rest and hide,” he added.
“Improper trash disposal can also obstruct canals and rivers causing flooding, which forces rats to flee floods and seek shelter on higher ground. This makes wading and swimming in flooded areas very dangerous as floodwaters may be contaminated with Leptospira bacteria from infected rats,” he said.
“This is why it is imperative for our barangays led by freshly-elected officials to help in enforcing Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which aims to protect public health and the environment from mismanaged discards,” he emphasized.
Among other things, R.A. 9003 requires the country’s over 42,000 barangays to develop an ecological solid waste management program, promote waste segregation, implement a segregated collection for biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards, and set up Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in every barangay or cluster of barangays.
“Ecological solid waste management can help not only in preventing leptospirosis, but also in preventing cholera, dengue, gastroenteritis, typhoid fever and other common diseases during the rainy season,” he said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “leptospirosis can be transmitted to humans through cuts and abrasions of the skin, or through the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth with water contaminated with the urine of infected animals.”
To prevent rat infestation, the EcoWaste Coalition echoed the following “seal up, trap up and clean up” advice from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
1. Seal up holes inside and outside the home to prevent entry by rodents.
2. Trap rodents around the home to help reduce the rodent population.
3. Clean up rodent food sources and nesting sites, and eliminate possible rodent food sources.