Food poisoning downs at least a hundred Ateneo student leaders and University President

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 July) — At least a hundred student leaders of the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) and the University President himself were rushed to at least three hospitals here late Sunday afternoon due to food poisoning blamed on the packed lunch served in a campus leadership seminar at noon.

But only a few were admitted in the hospitals for further monitoring. The rest were sent home, Jeremy Eliab,  Assistant to the ADDU President,  said.

Rikki Enriquez, ADDU Director of Student Affairs, told MindaNews they recorded 82 cases in the Davao Doctors Hospital (DDH), 51 at the San Pedro Hospital (SPH) and a few others at the DMSF (Davao Medical School Foundation) Hospital.

At the DDH emergency room where most of the students were rushed and where MindaNews interviewed Enriquez Sunday night, only 17 students and Fr. Tabora were confined in the hospital, he said.

Eliab  told MindaNews at 10 p.m. that  they were still monitoring the hospitals to determine how many of the 150 students  who manifested signs of food poisoning were confined.

Participants to Sunday’s leadership seminar were officials of the student council, class presidents and heads of  campus organizations. “The cream of the crop,” said Eliab.

Early Monday morning, Eliab said only 17 were confined at the DDH and three in the DMSF. He said they were still checking how many of the 48 students who proceeded to the SPH were confined. At 8:15 a.m. he told MindaNews  school officials were still in a meeting and that he would be able to provide more accurate data after the meeting.

Enriquez said at least 300 students attended the  day-long leadership seminar, “Sui Generis: A Leader’s Gathering with Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ,”  at the auditorium on the 7th floor of the ADDU’s Finster Hall and were served packed lunch at 12:30 noon. But around 2 p.m. students started getting out of the seminar venue, initially one by one, but later in alarming numbers.

Packed lunch

Enriquez said he was spared because he brought his own packed lunch. He said the participants of the seminar were served packed lunch of chicken adobo with egg, fish fillet, pancit bihon, salad, rice, and buko and orange juice.

He said it is not clear which of the food served caused the poisoning but added they brought to DDH samples of the food served at lunch and that tests would still be done by the Department of Health.

A number of students suspect it must have been the chicken adobo with egg.

Enriquez said the university had communicated with the students’ parents. He assured them ADDU will pay for the hospital expenses. “They will not spend a single centavo,” he said.

Jemaimah D’Lonsod, 18, a third year Mass Communications student told MindaNews she was attending to students who were complaining of upset stomach, some of them throwing up, at around 2:30 p.m. only to find out an hour later that she would also need attending to as she was also vomiting.

Her father, Sigredo,  confirmed they were assured the university would pay for the expenses. He also noted that ADDU students are insured upon enrollment.  Jemaimah and her father were preparing to leave the DDH when MindaNews spoke with them at the lobby of the emergency section.

Enriquez identified the caterer of Sunday’s gathering as MTC Rebosura with Neneng Rebosura as contact person.

MindaNews tried to reach Rebosura by phone Sunday night and  Monday morning but the caterer did not respond to text messages and at least four calls to her mobile phone went unanswered.

Eliab said the caterer has been serving the university for years but this is the first time such an incident happened.

Mass cancelled

The mass scheduled at 4 p.m. as a culminating activity of the leadership seminar was cancelled as more students were complaining of upset stomach, a number of them vomiting and feeling faint.

Enriquez said a security guard and a female elevator attendant at the ADDU, and even an aide of the caterer,  were among those who were sent to the hospital for check-up.  Most of those who felt sick were brought to the hospitals directly from ADDU. But  a number of those who went home and were feeling ill were asked to proceed to the hospitals, he said.

Dr. Noel Villanueva, DDH Assistant Medical Director for Medical Services and  Dr. Fides Ababon, Assistant Medical Director for Medical Education, rushed to the hospital and mobilized all available resident doctors, even those not on duty, to proceed to the hospital.

The chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, Dr. Marilyn Arguillas, and the department’s Training Officer, Dr. Teng Bernardo, also rushed to the hospital as soon as Villanueva sent them text messages on the mass food poisoning. Even medical residents from other departments proceeded to the emergency section.

Acting Mayor Rodrigo Duterte went hospital hopping Sunday night.

At the Atenews Page on Facebook, a prayer was offered by the “General Assembly of Class Presidents”  for those who fell ill.

“We thank you for giving us the opportunity to meet with our fellow Atenean leaders in the Sui Generis: A Leaders’  Gathering with Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ. We gather as one Ateneo community in asking your grace of healing those who were affected by the food poisoning. Bless them that they may regain their strength and may get well soon.”  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)