By Liza Agoot

DRINK SAFE WATER. Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong urges the public to drink bottled or boiled water and avoid drinking directly from the tap whether at home or in establishments. The city government has declared an outbreak of gastrointestinal cases on Wednesday (Jan. 10, 2024) after cases rose to 1,609 at around 3 p.m. during the day. (Photo from Baguio City PIO Facebook account)

BAGUIO CITY – The city government has declared an outbreak of gastroenteritis after reports started to pile since the holidays, with the numbers reaching around 1,602 as of 3 p.m. Wednesday.

“I would like to officially declare that we have an outbreak,” Mayor Benjamin Magalong said during the Public Information Office-led “Ugnayan” briefing on Wednesday, which was streamed live over the local government’s Facebook account. 

Local government unit (LGU) data show that around 729 of the victims went to hospitals, and most of these are pediatric cases.

Magalong said he has ordered a thorough investigation through testing of water from all 67 sources of the Baguio Water District (BWD). 

Three water testing laboratories — the Baguio Water District (BWD) laboratory, the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) laboratory, and the City Health Services Office laboratory — are all working on the result of the water samples. 

“A confirmatory result will take three days but we have started using the total dissolved solid (TDS) testing equipment since results of which can obtained outright. Once the result exceeds acceptable standards, we will immediately close the source,” he said.

Magalong said water sources of BWD, privately-owned water refilling stations, the 218 food establishments cited as the last place where the victims ate, and the 175 households where some of the victims who did not eat out but still suffered from gastrointestinal problems reside will all be subjected to testing. 

He said 80 of the establishments where the victims said they ate prior to experiencing gastrointestinal issues are located inside SM City Baguio while 134 are outside the mall. 

The local government has made public a self-reporting scheme using a QR code where people who experienced gastrointestinal problems can report their condition or their previous condition if they have already recovered. 

The reports will help the local government on its investigation and aid in checking the magnitude of the outbreak. 

Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes, city health services office chief, during the same press conference, advised the public to avoid drinking water directly from the tap and instead “drink mineral water or better to boil the water properly.”

“We urge everyone experiencing loose bowel movement, headache, stomach pain, or vomiting to seek medical assistance from the nearest health facility to avoid other complications,” she said. 

Brillantes said oral rehydration solution must be taken to avoid dehydration and for victims to seek medical services to address the bacteria or virus-causing stomach problems.

She said reports of gastrointestinal problems started as early as Dec. 20 but was not detected as much since bulk of the cases were reported just recently.

Cases in neighboring towns

Dr. Donnabel Tubera-Panes, chief of the city’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU), said they have obtained reports that some residents of La Trinidad and Tuba, Benguet have also experienced gastrointestinal problems after eating from Baguio City-based establishments as well as cooked food at home.

Thus, the city government is working with other localities to address the situation.

“We are coordinating with the neighboring local government units for a possible testing of their water source,” Magalong added. (PNA)