Health risks in Manila

Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital

Manila is the modern and cosmopolitan capital of the Philippines and, while most of the places here are generally safe, there are still a few precautionary health tips in Manila to take when it comes to healthcare which you need to keep in mind so you can keep safe and avoid getting sick during your trip.

For instance, you cannot drink water straight from the faucet and you should be aware of HIV especially when making transactions at the red light district. Other than that, there is not much to worry about. Manila is a fast developing country that offers a good tourist infrastructure and world class healthcare.

Healthcare in Manila

Because it is one of the most populous cities in the Philippines, the Metro also has the most number of hospitals and healthcare facilities in the country. The world-class hospitals in Metro Manila include St. Lukes Medical Center, which has two branches – one in Quezon City and one in The Fort (Taguig).

There’s also Cardinal Santos Medical Center (San Juan), Asian Hospital (Alabang), Medical City (Pasig/Ortigas), and the Makati Medical Center (Makati business district). These all accept international medical insurance.

As a general rule, private hospitals, and those better established clinics, have much better facilities and equipment and can effectively offer quality healthcare options to their patients. Tourist should always look to these places first off as, although the costing is significantly more than government or standard hospitals, the care attained is like chalk and cheese.

Manila health risks to bear in mind

Avian influenza: This condition is otherwise known as bird flu. There is no current threat for avian influenza in Manila.

Swine flu (H1N1): The rainy season brings about a lot of flu-like illnesses including A(H1N1), which you can get a vaccine for. The number of cases for swine flu has gone down, but the government and healthcare professionals are still exercising precautionary measures to prevent the spread of even the typical strain of the flu virus.

Dengue fever: Dengue is currently a growing epidemic in the city during the rainy season when stagnant water remains in ditches and hidden places. The symptoms are similar to malaria and the disease is spread by mosquitoes. There are certain high-risk places in the city with high dengue incidences, but in general, you just need to use mosquito repellent sprays or lotions to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

Dehydration: The weather in Manila tends to be unbearable during the summer when the heat can become scorching hot and can cause serious consequences like heat stroke and dehydration. Wear protective accessories like hats and sunglasses, keep yourself hydrated, and avoid staying outside for too long.

Diarrhoea: If you are not used to Filipino food, you may experience bouts of diarrhoea and upset stomach especially if you happen to sample the food from streets and stalls. Anti-diarrhoeal medication is available from pharmacies everywhere, and there are also sports drinks and oral rehydration salts for sale.

Drinking water: Always avoid drinking water straight from the tap and instead stick to bottled water or filtered water. Bottled water is cheap and widely available almost everywhere, including restaurants and 7Eleven stores all over the city.

Food: Manila has many street food vendors, and although it may be fun and cheap to eat the cheap grub they offer, you should think twice. There are some very clean food stalls, but others are not. Use common sense; if the stall looks filthy or it has a funky smell, just move to another.

Hepatitis: The most dangerous strain of hepatitis is Hepatitis B, which you can get from blood transfusions and especially from having unprotected sex. Get a vaccine against hepatitis. If you intend to have sex with a stranger, always use a condom.

HIV: Condoms are for sale everywhere – from convenience stores to pharmacies – so there is no excuse for not using one. Sex trade in the city is still a rampant and ongoing issue, making foreigners and even locals more prone to HIV. Therefore, if you intend to experience Manila’s seedy nightlife, you need to be careful.

Hygiene: Just like other major cities, some parts of Manila are clean but some are not. You may occasionally get a whiff of the sewage under the paved streets as you walk along the streets, and sometimes, as you stroll along Manila Bay. Rats and cockroaches are also regulars along with flies especially in less developed and poorer areas, so avoid those places if you can.

Pollution: Manila is highly polluted because of its many cars and other smoke-belching vehicles. The smoke may even cause your eyes to water or get irritated.

Rabies: Areas near the slums are often frequented by stray dogs roaming around. To keep safe, avoid calling them or giving them food. If you suspect the dog is rabid or dangerous, just walk away. In case you get bitten by a dog, head to the hospital immediately for anti-rabies shots.

STDs: Because sex trade is also rampant in Manila, sexually-transmitted diseases like HIV, herpes, and syphilis can easily be acquired with unprotected sex. Some of these can also be acquired orally.

Tattoo and piercing: Tattoo studios are located in various parts of the city but before you avail their services, be sure that the studio or salon is reputable and the tools and surroundings are clean. If you want to get pierced, you can visit jewellery stores at the mall where they may offer free piercing when you buy earrings.

Tropical infections: If you find that you have scratches or cuts, clean them well and sterilize them with antiseptics like Betadine. You can buy antiseptics and other basic first-aid necessities from pharmacies and convenience stores.