THE city is currently suffering an acute gastroenteritis (AGE) outbreak with at least 2,900 reported cases within the past weeks. This prompted the local government to order immediate investigations and tests to find out where the contamination originated.
While the latest data from City Health Services Office (CHSO) statistics show that the AGE case incidence is on the decline, posting 64 cases on Friday compared to 508 cases only four days before, the city has still tallied at least 2,915 cases to date since the initial tracking of AGE incidence early this month when a spike was detected.
January saw a sudden influx of AGE cases, many of which were traced back to food establishments in the city, particularly at SM Baguio as it has the most restos clustered in a single space. This prompted the immediate establishment of a self-reporting system and multiple emergency responses.
Salvador Royeca, general manager of the Baguio Water District (BWD), earlier said that roughly 63 percent of those who suffered gastroenteritis ate in a food establishment in the city.
As many as 609 people have sought medical consultation since Dec. 2, according to the CHSO, who also revealed that most cases were diagnosed due to symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and nausea, which indicated that the possible source of the disease was bacterial or viral in nature.
Efforts to find the source of the infection were put into place by the BWD, the CHSO, the Department of Health (DOH) at large. Even neighboring municipalities Itogon and Tuba local governments have taken action as cases have also been reported there.
SM declared for their part that they had drained their water reservoir for a thorough purification. At the same time, the city has implemented multiple probing efforts with the assistance of various agencies and city bureaus.
Mass testing of water samples from suspected sources was also fast-tracked.
The CHSO, with the assistance of Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) personnel, performed mass testing on water sources of the affected establishments and households.
City Health Officer Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes said that as of Friday, samples from 62 establishments, households, and institutions had been tested, with 18 found positive for total coliform and eight for the presence of E.coli. On Jan. 10, a sample from a food establishment also tested positive for bacterial contamination.
Reports have it that of the 18 that tested positive for total coliform, 12 were water delivery firms, four were food establishments, one was residential, but only its water dispenser was tested, and one school. The same establishments and residence identified for coliform also tested positive for E.coli along with five of the 12 water delivery companies.
In initial rapid tests for total dissolved solids (TDS), City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Peña said that certain water sources were found to be beyond the range of acceptable TDS where safe drinking water has a maximum threshold of 300 ppm.
15 wells of the BWD tested negative for coliform but they still have to test the rest of their 67 deepwells.
Investigations are still ongoing to trace the source of contamination.
The Epidemiology Bureau through Undersecretary and Public Health Services Center Lead Dr. Eric Tayag has been tapped to hasten the collection and testing of water samples.
Prices of bottled water are also now being monitored by the Dept. of Trade and Industry Baguio-Benguet and to ensure an ample supply of medicine, the city received augmentation through the help of the Dept. of Health, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center and donations by private companies like SM City Baguio.
“We have to speed up the investigation, test as many as we can, and get results as soon as possible. From the data, we have to identify the common denominator among the incidents to get to the bottom of the problem, identify the cause and source of the contamination, and address this health problem,” Mayor Benjamin Magalong said.