Red Tide A Recurring Curse

Healthbeat 1996 No. 5.jpgHealthbeat 1996 No. 5.jpg

As for the last count for the year: a total of 127 paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) cases were reported of which seven persons died. President Ramos also declared a state of calamites in 22 areas around Manila Bay.

This year, Red Tide struck on the weekend of 1 and 2 June, when government offices were closed and the Bureau of Fisheries and the interagency committee on environmental health (headed by the Department of Health) failed to monitor and warn the public against the spread of the deadly toxin. This caused the hospitalization of 18 persons and the death of two children.

As this happened, Senator Juan Flavier chided the interagency committee for failing to monitor and respond adequately to Red Tide. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate conducted a probe on the incident.

On 14 June, Sec. Carmencita N. Reodica relieved four employees of the Disaster Management Unit for not immediately reporting to her the first patient who was hospitalized due to Red Tide poisoning.

The nurse-on-duty received the report from Dr. Jose R. Reyes Memorial and Medical Center around 11 pm on 1 June, but reported this to the Secretary only on 3 June. This resulted in the delay in the imposition of shellfish ban.

“The DOH cannot tolerate errors in judgement,” Reodica stressed.

Later, the National Red Tide Task Force announce that fingerlings like alamang were included in the shellfish ban in the entire Manila Bay.

Then in August, Cielito Gonzales, head of the Bureau of Fisheries’ Oceanography Division said that a new organism called dinophysis caudata was present in Manila bay waters and the Red Tide ban still took effect.

On 10 September, the InterAgency lifted the ban in some areas of Manila Bay. However, the following day, the ban was reimposed again following the shellfish poisoning of a 56-years-old Tondo resident.

Red Tide has been a recurring health problem. Since 1983, when Red Tide toxin appeared in Philippine waters, records showed a total of 1,762 PSP cases and 108 deaths in the country.