Massive testing of Baguio’s water sources launched to stem gastroenteritis upsurge

Artemio Dumlao - Philstar.com
Massive testing of Baguio�s water sources launched to stem gastroenteritis upsurge
This undated file photo shows the city hall of Baguio.
Baguio City Facebook page

BAGUIO CITY — A massive testing of Baguio’s water sources has been launched to determine the cause of the acute gastroenteritis cases in the city.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong on Wednesday ordered an intensified investigation to identify the cause and arrest the surge of the bacteri-caused illness.

A health emergency team was convened early Wednesday to draw up a plan of action for extensive measures to address the emergency including the mass testing of water sources including water delivery companies and government and private deepwells.

Aside from the Baguio City Health Services and the Baguio Water District, the Baguio City Police was also ordered to help speed up the investigation and water testing procedure.

The investigation comes after SM City Baguio in a statement late Tuesday afternoon assured the public that “it is working with its tenants to temporarily serve mineral or bottled water for everyone’s safety.”

It said that the move will address "the issue of acute gastroenteritis allegedly hitting clients that ate in the restaurants in the mall,”

The mall said that it "is taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of its stakeholders amid a possible health concern reported in areas even outside the mall."

"As part of its periodic comprehensive water testing, we are collaborating with the local City Health Office to conduct immediate tests for the mall and among its tenants to promptly identify any potential risks," it said.

"With a strong commitment to safety and sanitation, SM City Baguio will always prioritize the well-being of its customers, business partners and employees," the mall chain also said.

Rapid testing

Magalong, meanwhile, ordered concerned agencies to “test as many as we can and get results as soon as possible.”  

He added that from the data, "the common denominator among the incidents must be identified to get to the bottom of the problem, identify the cause and source of the contamination and address this health problem."

Rapid tests using the total dissolved solid (TDS) testers will be conducted among the affected some 218 establishments as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday.  The test will also cover 80 households where around 175 incidents were reported, the Baguio City Public Information Office reported.

Those found positive will also be subjected to confirmatory microbial analyses.

Magalong said that the Baguio Water District is also conducting testing of its 67 water sources to aid in the probe.

On Wednesday, Baguio City government’s Sanitation Division also launched the testing of the different water delivery stations identified with current cases.

Magalong warned that sanctions would be meted against establishments who will not be cooperating in the massive water testing.

Those establishments with the most number of cases reported will be issued a sanitary order with a directive to conduct extensive clean-up and flushing of its water containment and to do a retesting before re-operation.

Food establishments, whose identities have not been readily available yet, with reported cases were directed to refrain from serving tap of filtered water and to serve only purified water to their customers.

Magalong’s directive was “a blanket advice to all food establishments Baguio City whether or not these had cases.”

As of Wednesday morning, the CHSO City Epidemiology Surveillance Unit has received 1,500 incident reports, which included old cases that were reported only now. 

Acting City Health Officer physician Celia Flor Brillantes also reiterated their advice for households to also use purified water for their consumption.  

“They may still use tap or filtered water but they have to boil it first for their safety,” she stressed.

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