E. coli-laced water traced as cause of diarrhea outbreak in Davao del Norte town

Published July 22, 2021, 2:08 PM

by Antonio Colina IV

DAVAO CITY – Health officials of Santo Tomas, Davao del Norte confirmed Thursday, July 22, that the water system and water stocks of refilling stations in Barangay Tulalian were contaminated with Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria that caused the diarrhea outbreak since Wednesday last week.

Dr. June P. Lim, Santo Tomas health officer, said that the result of a water examination conducted by the Water Bacteriology Laboratory of the Provincial Health Office showed the presence of E. coli in the water system and in the water stocks of two of the eight water refilling stations.

He said the E. coli, associated with human or animal wastes, is a strain that causes diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pains and cramps.

The barangay was serviced by Tulalian Water Association (Tuwasa), a private water service provider.

The six refilling stations that passed were Aquabless, Aqua Rhabmar, Crystal Sofia, Aquagel, AquaJam, and Sofia Malima while the two others that failed were Aqua Grace and Jetmatic, according to Mart Sambalud, information officer of the municipality.

Santo Tomas Mayor Ernesto Evangelista said during an interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) that authorities believed that the water pipes of Tuwasa were old and leaky which might have caused the contamination of the water supply.

Sambalud added that the local government listed a total of 471 residents who suffered from diarrhea from drinking tap water as of Wednesday. Of this total, one male patient, aged 58, and two female patients, aged 81 and 69, all residents of Barangay Tulalian, died, he said.

Of the total cases, three patients tested positive for COVID-19, one of whom was asymptomatic and the two others asymptomatic.

Findings of the random rectal swab tests conducted on 13 patients last July 16 showed that the diarrhea was caused by amoebiasis, acute gastroenteritis secondary to E. coli infection, and intestinal parasitism.

Aside from E. coli, various bacteria were also detected from the specimens such as vibrio cholerae, enterobacter chorelae, rhizobium radiobacter, aeronomas sobria, providencia alcalifaciens, aeromonas sobria, and klebsilla pneumoniae.

Sambalud said the Sangguniang Bayan will schedule an inquiry to investigate the incident.