Baguio City, a popular tourist destination in the Philippines, is experiencing a surge in acute gastroenteritis cases and is at the forefront of a public health challenge.
The tally has risen to 2,199 affected individuals. Consequently, the Baguio City Health Services Office (CHSO) is diligently utilising its self-reporting system to monitor the evolving situation closely. In response to the heightened concerns among the public, Mayor Benjamin Magalong has assured residents that the city is actively engaging in rigorous safety and preventive measures to bring the situation under control swiftly.
Addressing Public Concerns
Mayor Magalong has expressed his optimistic outlook, anticipating a decline in case numbers soon. He attributes this hopeful perspective to the proactive measures adopted by food establishments and households across the city. Despite admitting 45 patients to hospitals, Mayor Magalong emphasises that none of the reported infections are classified as severe. He underscores the expedited testing of water samples from suspected sources to instil confidence within the community.
What is Acute Gastroenteritis
Acute gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that involves both the stomach and the small intestine. It results in a combination of symptoms, including diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and cramping. It is typically of sudden onset and lasts for a limited period, usually from a few days to one week.
The condition is commonly caused by viral infections, with norovirus and rotavirus being frequent culprits in adults and children, respectively. However, bacteria (such as E. coli and Salmonella), parasites (like Giardia), and even certain chemicals or toxins can also lead to acute gastroenteritis. Transmission often occurs through the consumption of contaminated food or water, or through direct contact with infected individuals.
Treatment & Prevention
Dehydration is a significant concern with acute gastroenteritis, especially in young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems, due to the loss of fluids and electrolytes from diarrhoea and vomiting. Symptoms of dehydration include decreased urination, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up.
Treatment for acute gastroenteritis primarily focuses on staying hydrated and managing symptoms. In viral cases, antibiotics are not effective and are not used. Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) or intravenous fluids in severe cases are commonly employed to prevent dehydration. Over-the-counter medications may help alleviate symptoms, but it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before using them, especially in children.
Preventive measures include proper handwashing, food safety practices, and vaccination against specific pathogens like rotavirus, especially in areas where such infections are common.
Vigorous Water Sample Testing
The city’s focal point has been the expedited testing of water samples, with 28 samples submitted for comprehensive analysis. Preliminary results indicate that 16 of these samples tested negative for thermotolerant coliform organisms. Building upon these results, the samples will undergo further viral testing at the esteemed Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). Meanwhile, the remaining 12 samples are diligently awaiting results. Additionally, the city implemented process to identify and address potential sources of contamination.
Chronology of Reported Cases
Providing insights into the reported case timeline, Baguio City Health Officer Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes notes that most cases occurred between January 2 and 8. Of the 2,199 cases, 492 sought consultation in health facilities, with 64.4% still experiencing symptoms. Significantly, 63.6% of the affected individuals reported dining in food establishments, raising concerns about a potential link to food-borne causes. Other contributing factors include take-out food orders (13.2%), home-cooked meals (11.2%), and various other circumstances (12%).
The geographical spread of the outbreak extends beyond the city limits, with 218 cases from outside Baguio City and an additional 204 reported from neighbouring towns. Detailed statistics reveal that Barangay Bakakeng Norte tops the list with 113 cases, followed by unspecified locations (100), Irisan (94), and Camp 7 (90). The remaining cases are spread across different barangays within the city.
Government Response and Collaborative Efforts
Acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the Department of Health (DoH) has actively joined forces with the Baguio City government to manage and control the outbreak. Mayor Magaling, in response to the rising cases, declared an acute gastroenteritis outbreak last week. This declaration followed the receipt of 1,602 incidents reported in 218 establishments and 80 households. Collaborating with the Baguio City Health Office, the DoH has compiled a comprehensive report indicating 308 cases from December 21, 2023, to January 7, 2024. Notably, no deaths have been reported, and the 11 hospitalised cases are under close monitoring.
As Baguio City confronts this acute gastroenteritis outbreak, swift and comprehensive measures are being implemented. Subsequently, these measures aim to identify the root causes and promptly mitigate the illness’s spread. Public health remains a top priority, with ongoing water sample testing, thorough investigations, and collaborative efforts between local and national health authorities. The community’s access to clean, potable water is being prioritised, pending the final results of the investigation. The city is diligently working to control the situation, reassuring residents and visitors alike in this challenging time.