Baguio City

Baguio goes on alert as city sees spike in acute gastroenteritis cases

Mia Magdalena Fokno

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Baguio goes on alert as city sees spike in acute gastroenteritis cases
(1st UPDATE) 'Our primary suspicion revolves around a potential widespread water contamination,' says Baguio City's acting health chief, Dr. Celio Flor Brillantes

BAGUIO, Philippines – A sudden rise in the number of acute gastroenteritis cases has put Baguio City’s public health system on high alert. 

Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes, acting city health officer, confirmed what she called alarming reports about acute gastroenteritis cases since late December, the days before the holidays.

Health authorities in Baguio have so far documented 350 gastroenteritis cases since December 21, 2023, a spike that has unsettled the city.

Meanwhile, the City Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (CESU) has logged 1,500 incident reports as of Wednesday, January 10.

Acute gastroenteritis, marked by a rapid onset of stomach and intestinal inflammation, is commonly triggered by viral or bacterial infections. The condition manifests through symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps, with potential dehydration risks necessitating vigilant management.

Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong ordered an investigation and testing of various water sources, including water delivery companies, and both public and private deep wells. 

The rapid tests would also cover some 218 affected establishments and 80 households, with 175 reported incidents. Those that would test positive would then be subjected to confirmatory microbial analyses.

“We initiated an in-depth investigation. Our primary suspicion revolves around a potential widespread water contamination… Identifying the contamination source is our top priority,” Brillantes said.

The City Health Services Office (CHSO) has started collecting water samples from food establishments for tests. 

The Baguio Water District has also joined the investigation, offering additional resources to hasten the process of tracing and determining the cause of the increase in acute gastroenteritis cases. The water district is testing its 67 water sources to ascertain their safety.

Brillantes advised food establishments in Baguio to use only purified water as a preventive measure until the local health office was done with its investigation. 

“This interim step is vital to prevent further spread,” she said. 

She called for community vigilance, urging residents to immediately report suspected cases or symptoms of acute gastroenteritis cases to health authorities.

Health advisory

As Baguio confronts this public health challenge, the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Baguio Health Services Office issued a health advisory, cautioning against the use of “service water” or ice from food outlets. 

They have also introduced a “Food and Water-Related Illness Self Reporting Form,” accessible through a QR code, to bolster efforts in tracking and controlling the outbreak.

In a proactive response, SM City-Baguio initiated its own comprehensive water testing in collaboration with the local health office.

“We are taking every possible step to ensure a safe environment for our customers and staff,” the mall management announced. 

The mall’s management has advised its tenants to temporarily switch to mineral or bottled water for customer safety. –

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