This provided photograph depicts residents of Inogbong, the village where five people died due to a diarrhea spread.

The health chief of Bataraza confirmed on Tuesday that five persons had died as a result of a recent diarrhea occurrence in Barangay Inogbong.

According to Dr. Rebethia Acala, the head of the Municipal Health Office (MHO), the first case was reported on February 9, and by the end of the month, 41 cases had been recorded.

She also contested claims that nine people had died as a result of the illness.

“As of yesterday, the admitted cases in the RHU (Rural Health Unit) and Bataraza District Hospital had reached 41. We have had five deaths. May nagsasabi na nine but actually, hindi naman diarrhea related yung apat,” Acala told Palawan News in a telephone interview.

“The deaths occurred in a span from February 21 to February 25,” she said.

The health official also said that they are still treating the remaining patients and looking into each case.

Acala attributed the spread of the disease to the poor quality of the water supply in the area as well as the inadequate hygiene practices of the majority of the affected population, who are members of a community of indigenous peoples living in the hinterlands.

“Right now, we have a team in the area conducting environmental sanitation and health education. We [also] have one doctor there for treatment of patients,” she stated.

“Most of them are resistant to health education because they practice their beliefs and their traditions,” she explained, adding that most of the cases were reported late.

Furthermore, Acala explained that while the sudden rise of cases could be considered an outbreak, they are also cautious in declaring it, as she said she hopes that there will be no more additional cases.

“By definition of outbreak, yung increased cases, when you compare to the number of cases in the past year, we can say that it is an outbreak. But we are also careful to say this is an outbreak and we are hoping that it will also die down,” she said.