Gastroenteritis outbreak declared in Baguio | Inquirer News

Gastroenteritis outbreak declared in Baguio

/ 05:06 AM January 11, 2024

Gastroenteritis outbreak declared in Baguio

TESTING | The Baguio Water District began testing the quality of all its deep wells after acute gastroenteritis cases in the city rose to more than 1,700 during the holiday week, prompting Mayor Benjamin Magalong to declare an outbreak. (Photo by NEIL CLARK ONGCHANGCO / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — A sharp increase in the number of people suffering from diarrhea and acute gastroenteritis in this city during the New Year holiday has forced local officials to declare an outbreak on Wednesday.

The City Health Services Office has recorded 1,761 patients with gastroenteritis (inflammation of the digestive system), which rose from the initial 1,490 when the city government on Tuesday urged residents and tourists to “self-report” their conditions through the city information office.


Many of the reported responses came from tourists who were in the city in the first days of January, said Mayor Benjamin Magalong at a briefing after convening a health emergency team to address the problem.


Magalong said he and some of his family members also had brief gastrointestinal attacks after attending an event recently.

The city’s initial task was to contain the number of gastrointestinal cases and determine the source of the infections by narrowing down the probe to places with the highest number of patients.

Doctors, sanitation engineers, and even police have been tapped to interview patients, and gather water and biological samples from 218 establishments where patients consumed or used what may have been contaminated water for drinking and cooking.

Magalong said 60 percent, or about about 80, of these establishments are operating at SM City Baguio.

Mass testing

Salvador Royeca, general manager of the Baguio Water District (BWD), said his crew has been testing all of the city’s deep wells and distribution system, and found no problems with pipes serving the mall.

As of Tuesday, BWD deep wells in downtown Baguio (covering Harrison Road along Burnham Park, the hotel row of Kisad Road, the public market, and City Hall), as well as the SM cistern and water supplied there by the BWD were “negative for coliform organisms,” according to data supplied by Royeca.


According to Magalong, SM has begun sanitizing its rainwater harvesting and containment facilities as a precaution.

But the investigation would include the mall’s six regular water delivery providers as well, he said.

In a statement, the mall management said it “is taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of its stakeholders amid a possible health concern reported in areas even outside the mall.”

“Collaborating with the local City Health Office, we are conducting comprehensive water tests for the mall and among its tenants to promptly identify any potential risks,” it said.

It added: “We will always prioritize the well-being of [our] customers, business partners and employees.”

The mall has asked its tenants to serve mineral or bottled water as part of measures to ensure public safety.

Around 175 patients informed the city that they got sick at home, said Dr. Donnabel Tubera Panes, the city epidemiologist.

Neighboring towns

Cases have also been reported in the neighboring Benguet towns of Itogon and Tuba, she said.

Some residents there indicated they ate in Baguio and became ill when they returned home but other families narrated that they suffered vomiting and diarrhea after consuming home-cooked meals, Panes said.

Magalong said teams might widen their investigation to include water purifying stations and 1,003 private deep wells, of which only 173 have secured permits to draw water.

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He also advised residents to consume bottled water in the meantime and avoid drinking tap water.

TAGS: Baguio, Gastroenteritis

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