28 Bohol pupils die of food poisoning

Fried cassava also downs 60 others

By PDI Visayas Bureau, Jhunnex Napallacan, Chito Fuentes
Inquirer News Service

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol, Philippines -- When 8-year-old Judy Ann Bosbos left home early yesterday morning, there was no indication that it would be any different from any other school day. It would be her last day, it turned out.

Bosbos and at least 27 other pupils, aged 7 to 13 years old, died while 60 others were hospitalized due to food poisoning at the San Jose Elementary School in Mabini town, Bohol province, 104 km northwest of the city. It was the worst reported case of food poisoning in the history of the province.

The children were poisoned after eating fried cassava, locally known as maruyang balanghoy, which was sold by a longtime vendor at the school area.

"It was during recess time. The children bought cassava," Vice Mayor Ester Tabigue of Mabini told The Associated Press.

Tabigi said authorities could not yet say how many children had fallen ill,adding that they were rushed to different hospitals in the neighboring towns and in this city.

"The children were brought to the hospital, they were vomiting and their stomachs ached," she said.

Francisca Doliente said her 9-year-old niece Arve Tamor was given some of the deep-fried caramelized cassava by a classmate who bought it from a regular vendor.

"Her friend is gone. She died," she told AP.

Bosbos' father Margarito was still grief-stricken at the sight of his daughter lying lifeless at the morgue at the Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital (GCGMH).

A few feet behind him was Donato Luyong, the distraught uncle of Leonard Luyong, 8, another fatality.

Like Judy Ann, Leonard was brought back to Mabini late last night aboard the dump trucks provided by the provincial government.

Initial reports said 14 of those killed were brought to the L.C. Cutamora Hospital and the Don Emilio del Valle Hospital, both in Mabini's neighboring town of Ubay.

Two others were reported dead in Carlos P. Garcia Hospital in Talibon town, one in the Dr. Prisco Salang Private Clinic in Mabini, and two more at the Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital in this city.

At least 16 of the fatalities were identified. They were Kevin Salaum, 9; Ana Rose Salaum, 9; Michelle Gambuta, 8; Wilfredo Luyong, 7; Vicente Ballecer, 8; Edu Fernandez, 7; Joemar Lomotos, 13; Cirila Sanchez, 13; Julieta Sanchez, 11; Vina Mae Cual (age not available); Aiza Toyogon, 9; Juanito Hinampas, 9; Riza Ballecer, 9, and Sammy Montilla, 11.

In Manila, Dr. Troy Gepte, medical specialist at the Department of Health's National Epidemiology Center, said he had received an initial report that "the students began complaining of bowel pains accompanied by vomiting after eating cassava."

Most of the victims were brought to Ubay, according to Mon Abayon, a staff member at the town mayor's office.

Vendors

The food vendor, Anna Tinaan Luyong, 67, was herself poisoned but survived, according to Philip Fuderanan, executive assistant of Mayor Stephen Rances of Mabini. She is among the victims confined at the provincial hospital here.

The school has 276 pupils and the majority of them had eaten the food sold by Luyong, Abayon said.

Local health authorities have yet to determine what caused the poisoning. The poison could have originated from the cassava itself, the cooking oil or from the sugar used in preparing the snack.

Some types of cassava found in Bohol are poisonous, Abayon said. In fact, the juice or sap of the poisonous type must be removed first before the root crop is cooked, he added.

Abayon said Luyong had long been selling food at the school, but it was only yesterday that she sold fried cassava.

Initial reports said another vendor, who was selling the same food with Luyong, had been detained by police.

The vendor, Victoria Hibaya, 59, claimed she merely bought the rolled cassava and bola-bola (balls) in the neighboring Barangay Paraiso.

First aid

After eating the food, all of the school children started vomiting, Abayon said.

He said school officials tried to give first aid to the victims by making them ingest sugar or cooking oil, and by letting them drink water with charcoal so that they would vomit the food they had eaten.

Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit called up Mayor Rances last night and they talked about the mass poisoning, Fuderanan said.

He said Rances mobilized all municipal personnel to help the victims. Initially, the provincial government plans to give P2,000 cash assistance to the families of the victims, while the municipal government is considering P1,000.

Specimen

A specimen of the cassava was taken for inspection at the local Crime Laboratory Group. The case has already been reported to the Poison Control Center of the Philippine General Hospital.

The DoH is sending a team to Bohol today to investigate.

Those who survived were not yet in a talking mood when approached by the Inquirer.

No shouts or cries

Jumel Boybanting did not look when he answered a few questions. "Many children died," he answered when asked about the tragedy.

He stared sadly at the wall, unmindful of his grandmother's attempts to feed him with crackers.

Jumel, 7, recalled that there were no shouts or cries. "Only complaints of aching stomachs," he said, still staring at the wall.

Rusel Vallecera, 9, glanced once in a while inside his room at the GCGMH'S pediatrics ward. Like Jumel, who was confined in the same room, Rusel was fitted with dextrose.

Sent home

His sister Visminda said that when he arrived home, Rusel did not tell them he was starting to feel the effects of the poisoning. He simply reported that they were sent home because many school children were sick.

"He was afraid that he would be scolded," Visminda explained.

When he started to complain, they had to rush him to the nearest hospital in town.

Visminda said that when they got to the Rural Health Center in Poblacion, Mabini, it was already packed with so many sick children.

Emergency room

Over at the emergency room, four more children were brought in 8:30 p.m., bringing to 12 the number of victims confined at the GCGMH.

Again, there were no shrill shouts. Like Rusel and Jumel, the children were still too weak -- and bewildered to say anything.

Fuderanan said the reports of the poisoning were not immediately reported to the mayor's office because the barangay (village) is about 20 km from the town proper.

He said a 24-hour monitoring service had been set up at the municipal hall to assist the victims and their families.

Acting Governor Julius Caesar Herrera immediately ordered the deployment of all available ambulances to Mabini and the hospitals where the victims were brought. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra and Inquirer wires

10/03/2005

Bron : Inq7.net

Archief - Home