MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 16 May) – At least 230 participants of a national summer youth camp of the Adventist church were sent to hospitals here on Tuesday after suffering from diarrhea, abdominal pains and vomiting, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Military trucks and ambulances made several trips to ferry the victims from the Center for Ecological Development and Recreation (CEDAR) in the municipality of Impasug-ong, where the event was held, to hospitals in this city, about 20 kilometers away, according to Lt. Col. Ronald Illana, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion.
“The students were very weak and we made several trips to ferry them to the hospitals,” he added.
Dr. David Mendoza, DOH 10 assistant regional director, told MindaNews over the phone Thursday that they considered the incident a ʺfood and water-borne disease outbreakʺ pending investigation.
He did not discount the possibility of amoebiasis. He cited that among the treatments employed in the hospitals were for amoebiasis.
There were reports cited by local sources that some of the victims started to complain about stomach pains, diarrhea and vomiting after taking lunch on Tuesday. Others said some blamed the water from the resorts springs.
Mendoza said they took water samples and rectal swabs of the victims for laboratory analysis in the DOHʾs Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila. The results, he added, should be known in three days at the latest.
So far the victims, ranging from ages 1 to 78, were treated based on their symptoms, Mendoza said.
He said 169 of the victims were brought to the government-owned Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center. Others were treated in private facilities like the Bethel Baptist Hospital and St. Jude Hospital.
The victims were participants of the 8th National Youth Convention of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement held from May 9 to 18 at the CEDAR, a resort operated by the municipality of Impasug-ong through a partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
About 1,000 church members attended the gathering, according to the Facebook page of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement.
Mendoza said the incident is an outbreak because it was a public health emergency but is no cause for alarm as it is preventable. He said for one, it could have been avoided with proper food preparation.
MindaNews tried to reach event organizers but contact numbers provided by sources could not be contacted.
Jasper Kent Ola, DOH-10 on-site point person, told MindaNews the situation has been controlled as there are no more new complaints of diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pains.
Dr. Sulpicio Legazpi Jr., Bukidnon provincial health officer, said Thursday afternoon that 95 students are still confined at the provincial hospital. The rest have gone home after they have recovered, he added.
Ola said the event has been transferred to another venue but some participants are still in the area.
Forester Emmanuel Lumoyod, Impasug-ong municipal environment and natural resources officer, told MindaNews via telephone they had to temporarily close the resort from other guests because the campers left in a hurry, leaving their garbage behind. He clarified there was no order from DOH to close it.
ʺWe might need to clean up in two to three days,ʺ he added.
Ola cited that they are fortunate no one died from the incident, which the DOH attributed to the quick joint action by the local government of Impasug-ong with help from neighboring Sumilao town, the police and Army. (With reports from Froilan Gallardo in Cagayan de Oro / MindaNews)