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Jatropha fruits down 41 pupils in Bohol

/ 07:15 PM June 09, 2012

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CEBU CITY, Philippines—At least 41 school children in the town of Dauis in Bohol  fell ill after eating the poisonous fruits of Jatropha plants planted around the school while they were on their lunch break on Friday, police and hospital authorities said Saturday.

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Twenty-five of the children had been discharged from the Governor Celestino Gallares Hospital in  Tagbilaran City by Saturday afternoon, but 16 were still confined there, according to pediatric ward nurse Abegail Mercader.

The children, she added in a telephone interview, were in stable condition although they still had fever and complained of dizziness.

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Dauis is located on Panglao Island, one of the major tourist attractions in Bohol, because of its white-sand beaches.

Senior Superintendent Constantino Barot Jr., Bohol Provincial Police Office director, said that based on the reports from the Dauis police, Jatropha  plants were used as posts for the fence around the Tutolan Elementary School.

The pupils, aged 6 to 10, plucked low-lying Jatropha fruits and ate them  during lunch break on Friday.

The stricken pupils consisted of  23 boys and 13 girls from Grades I, II, III and IV.

At 1:30 p.m., school advisers of the four classes reported that the pupils were complaining of stomach pain. Some vomited inside the classrooms.

The school officials called up the provincial emergency and communication group, TARSIER 117, and requested an ambulance to transport the children to the provincial hospital in Tagbilaran City.

At least 36 pupils were brought to the hospital at 4:25 p.m., according to a spot report submitted by the Dauis police station to Barot. Five others were taken to the hospital in the evening.

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Jatropha is a small tree or shrub that normally grows between three and five meters high, according to the website www.jatrophabiodiesel.org.

Considered  a “wonder plant,” the seeds of Jatropha have an oil content of 37 percent and have been used in the manufacture of biodiesel fuel.

Hospital nurse Mercader said the children ate the Jatropha fruits because they tasted like chocolates and peanuts.

“They said it tasted like peanuts and chocolates. So they decided to peel the fruits and ate them,”she said.

She  added the pupils had already been warned against eating the fruits, which are poisonous.

Barot said he instructed the Dauis police to coordinate with the school officials in cutting down the Jatropha plants.

He said he wanted the jatropha plants replaced with  the edible “malunggay” or moringa oleifera.

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TAGS: Bohol, Children, Dauis, Food Poisoning, Jatropha
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