Gastro outbreak in Baguio declared over

Gastro outbreak in Baguio declared over

/ 05:02 AM January 19, 2024

Baguio Water District general manager Salvador Royeca drinks from tap to prove that the city’s water supply is safe.

STRAIGHT FROM THE TAP Baguio Water District general manager Salvador Royeca drinks from tap to prove that the city’s water supply is safe. —VINCENT CABREZA

BAGUIO CITY — The acute gastroenteritis outbreak in this city was declared over by Mayor Benjamin Magalong on Thursday after epidemiologists zeroed in on seven private deep wells that were suspected to be the sources of the surge of diarrhea cases this month.

The suspected sources of the contamination have been ordered closed and were directed to sanitize their facilities while undergoing a series of tests before they could reopen, Magalong said at a briefing.


READ: Gastroenteritis outbreak in Baguio City ‘officially contained’ – DOH exec

Dr. Donnabel Tubera-Panes, the city epidemiologist, said these commercial deep wells were contaminated by fecal matter and were among 12 private facilities whose water samples were found to contain coliform bacteria.


According to Panes, the epidemiology team is mapping out the network of customers of these establishments because many private deep wells that sell raw water have no ledgers that will show with whom and to what degree they have transacted business before and during the surge.

Reports of increasing diarrhea cases first emerged in downtown Baguio, including a popular shopping mall, but more people came forward when the city government opened a “self-reporting” online portal, raising the number of suspected patients to over 3,000, including tourists who visited the city during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Medical records indicated that 383 people had consulted with doctors or had been confined at local hospitals for diarrhea, Panes said.

Case trend

Magalong declared an outbreak on Jan. 10. The cases peaked between Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, when over 500 people reported suffering diarrhea symptoms.

But the cases slid from Jan. 9 to Jan. 13, indicating that the spread of the infections had been contained.

New diarrhea complaints were now routine cases, Magalong said.


The mayor said the city’s sanitation team would soon test and examine the operations of 1,003 private deep wells in Baguio, beginning with 173 which have secured permits.

“We will also look at their documents and check their operational ledgers,” Magalong said.

The water supplied by the Baguio Water District (BWD) tested negative for contaminants, he added.

“All BWD sources are totally, completely and absolutely safe. You can now drink tap water straight from your faucet,” Magalong stressed.

Lab results

Panes said the City Health Services Office is still waiting for the final laboratory results of water samples tested by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) before it could complete a definitive report about the outbreak.

Before the outbreak declaration, Panes said epidemiologists reviewed five years’ worth of medical records involving water-borne diseases that struck Baguio, including acute bloody diarrhea, cholera and typhoid fever, to understand the trend.

The average age of patients was 27, although among the patients treated for diarrhea were children, including babies 3 to 4 months old.

Magalong said government doctors were also retesting stool samples after RITM discovered the presence of the norovirus and the sapovirus, which cause stomach flu.

But epidemiologists have yet to rule out bacterial pathogens as likely reasons for the initial spread of the stomach ailments, which Panes attributed to “person-to-person” contact.

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“An infected individual may have failed to wash his hands before cooking for the family, inadvertently spreading the disease to the household,” she said.

TAGS: Baguio, Gastroenteritis

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