DOH-12 seeks help from US, Japan laboratories on horse meat deaths

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 14 May) – The Department of Health (DOH) in Region 12 has sought the assistance of laboratories in the United States and Japan to determine the actual cause of the death last month of seven persons in Senator Ninoy Aquino town in Sultan Kudarat province who were initially believed to have consumed contaminated horse meat.

Dr. Teogenes Baluma, DOH Region 12 director, said they sent some samples earlier taken from the seven victims to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Georgia and another laboratory facility in Japan for a series of examination and analysis.

“We don’t have definitive findings yet as to the actual cause of their deaths but we’re hoping that these laboratory examinations can provide us some answers,” he said in a radio interview.

The official said the samples comprised spinal fluids and blood specimens of the seven victims, who were all residents of Sitio Parreno, Barangay Tinalon in Senator Ninoy Aquino town.

The victims succumbed to severe poisoning symptoms several days after eating the entrails and meat of several horses that died of unknown causes.

Baluma said they sought the assistance of the laboratories in the US and Japan due to the limited capability of local facilities.

“We want to be really certain as to what caused their deaths so we can properly manage the treatment of the other victims and possible similar cases in the future,” he said.

Based on the agency’s initial analysis on the signs and symptoms experienced by the seven fatalities and other victims who were hospitalized, he said it appears that it was caused by the viral encephalitis disease.

The US CDC said encephalitis is a rare brain inflammation that is commonly caused by a virus.

It can cause flu-like symptoms like fever or severe headache as well as confused thinking, seizures, or problems with senses or movement that may lead to death if not properly treated.

Nestor Casador, Sultan Kudarat provincial agriculturist, earlier said the victims fell ill after consuming the meat of three horses that were slaughtered after turning weak and eventually died due to still unknown causes.

Citing a report from their veterinary unit, he said five of the victims died several days after eating the entrails of the horses.

Baluma said no new cases of the disease has so far emerged in the affected area and all local residents who were earlier hospitalized have already recovered.

“We have continuing interventions like antibiotic treatments for residents who were hospitalized and had close contact with the victims,” he said.

He added that they sustained their close monitoring of the area’s situation through the municipal government’s health personnel.