public health

Davao’s diarrhea outbreak due to street food – health official

Grace Cantal-Albasin
Davao’s diarrhea outbreak due to street food – health official

STREET FOOD. Skewered chicken and pork intestines and other grilled items are sold in a street food stall.


'Improper storage, delayed serving, and the unsanitary environment may have contributed to the contamination,' says city health officer Dr. Ashley Lopez

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Street food – not tap water – started a diarrhea outbreak that led to at least six deaths and made over 200 people sick in Davao City this month, health authorities said on Friday, July 29.

Specimens collected to determine the cause of the outbreak tested positive for cholera, Aeromonas, e. coli, and coliform bacteria.

The bacteria was traced to the food sold in the streets and the public market in the Toril District.

“It is not water. The diarrhea outbreak was due to the food that may have been contaminated during the preparation and handling. Improper storage, delayed serving, and the unsanitary environment may have contributed to the contamination,” city health officer Dr. Ashley Lopez told the Davao City Disaster Radio.

The investigation was conducted by four experts sent to Davao by the Epidemiologic Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH) who reviewed all information provided by the CHO, Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), and the Davao City Water District (DCWD).

Samples from the tap water were also tested, and the results showed Davao’s water supply is safe.

Two ice plants in the Toril District, however, were closed down after the ice they were selling tested positive for coliform contamination. City hall revoked their business licenses.

Health officials noted that many people in the Toril District used water from the wells, and advised those using untreated water to boil it first.

The diarrhea outbreak peaked on July 15, with 67 cases on that day alone. The outbreak claimed six lives and made 217 people sick in 18 of the 25 barangays in the Toril District as of July 28.

Lopez said at least 89 or 41% of the patients ate food sold by vendors on Rasay Street in Toril while 45 others or 21% were exposed to food sold at the Toril public market. 

He said 80% of the people who died ate the food sold on Rasay Street and the market. 

The contaminated street food included creamed tapioca pearls, isaw (grilled chicken or pork intestine), kwek-kwek (boiled egg in orange batter), coconut, and other juices, said Lopez. 

The City Health Office declared the end of the diarrhea outbreak on Friday. From 48 active cases on July 19, the city saw the number dropping to 11 hospital admissions and 26 outpatients.

Health authorities, however, said 11 cases were still awaiting validation.

Davao Councilor Diosdado Angelo Mahipus Jr. urged the city’s health authorities to be proactive and called for a review of the city’s Sanitation Code. 

Mahipus told Lopez during the city council session on July 26 that city hall should hire more sanitary inspectors to check the more than 10,000 business establishments in Davao City’s 182 barangays.

The Davao City government only employs 18 sanitary inspectors which, councilors said, was not enough.

Toril District alone, which has about 70,000 residents, is being covered by only one sanitary inspector, they pointed out. –

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