Health official: Contaminated street food caused diarrhea outbreak in Davao

Subscribe Now July 30, 2022 at 08:48am

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 July) – Unhygienic street food had caused the outbreak of diarrhea in Toril District affecting a total of 217 people with six deaths from July 15 to 28, the City Health Office (CHO) confirmed on Friday.

In an interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Friday, CHO head Dr. Ashley Lopez said the results of rectal swabs confirmed that the outbreak was caused by “food-borne microorganism with vibrio cholera as the pathogen of concern.”

“The most likely vehicle of transmission is not water but rather contaminated food,” he said.

He said the sources of infection were tapioca drink and street food, particularly isaw (grilled chicken entrails), kwek-kwek (fried orange-battered eggs), and juice, sold at the night market on Rasay Street and Toril Public Market.

He said the tapioca drink was the primary cause of infection, and most of the critical cases had taken it.

According to their investigation, Lopez said it was found that 41% of the affected cases had eaten at the night market, 21% at the public market, and 38% from multiple sources.

Lopez declared the diarrhea outbreak is over after almost two weeks as the city recorded a total of 163 or 75% of the total cases had recovered.

He added that based on investigations, food might have been contaminated during preparation and handling by an unhygienic food handler.

He said proper storage, delayed serving, and unsanitary environment might have contributed to the contamination of food.

“Home cooked food and handwashing are still the best way to prevent food borne illnesses and seek early medical care most especially if you have had your third episode of acute watery diarrhea, and this is the best way to prevent severe complications and death,” he said.

He added health authorities have ruled out water-borne bacteria as the cause of the outbreak since the result of an examination conducted by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) showed samples taken from distribution pipes of Davao City Water District (DCWD) tested negative for bacterial contamination.

He said water supplied by DCWD is clean and safe as shown by the results of the two tests conducted by the utility.

However, water samples taken after the meter, which is no longer under DCWD’s jurisdiction, showed a statistically significant number containing coliforms and E.coli.

These samples were only seen in isolated cases, mostly in pipelines submerged in dirty water and canals.

Lopez cautioned households against drinking from open wells and springs, as majority of the wells they tested showed positive results for bacteria in microbial analysis.

He advised those who do not have access to DCWD to boil their water for at least 10 minutes.

For the two ice plants in Toril that got suspended on July 25, the test results showed
that their ice was positive for coliforms and E.coli. They allegedly sourced their water from deep wells, he said.

He warned the public that what these plants are producing is industrial ice, which is unsafe for human consumption.

Lopez said the suspension of the operations of the street food vendors has been lifted but added that the local government is considering to impose stricter regulations to prevent recurrence of this outbreak in the future.

He said the CHO wants to relocate the street food vendors in one location, just
like the Roxas Night Market, for easier monitoring.

He said the latest casualty of the outbreak was a 27-year-old man who died last July 24 of “cardiopulmonary arrest secondary to severe dehydration.”

The patient bought and consumed isaw, tapioca drink, and corned dog at the night market last July 15 and experienced diarrhea, dizziness, and body malaise on the following day.

He said the patient tried to self-medicate.


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