DUMAGUETE CITY -- At least 169 people were downed with diarrhea and vomiting symptoms over the past few days in Sibulan, Negros Oriental due to what is believed to have been fecal contamination of water sources.

The Department of Health (DOH) in Region 7 is now collaborating with local health officials to actually determine the cause of the upsurge of diarrhea cases, although initially it has been attributed to contaminated water, said Iris Indira S. Requiron-Puspus, senior administrative assistant of the Office of the Mayor of Sibulan.

From more than 90 cases reported on Wednesday, the number climbed to 169 at the latest count on Thursday afternoon as per DOH records.

Majority of the cases are from Barangay Looc, Sibulan, near a quarry site, according to Requiron-Puspus.

Sanitary inspectors deployed to the area took water samples from different jetmatic pumps within a 25-meter radius.

The water samples were found to have fecal contamination and were positive of the E. coli bacteria, said Puspus.

The youngest to be affected was a one-month old baby while the oldest was 75 years old.

Apart from the jetmatic pumps, other water sources such as the Sibulan Water District (SIWAD) and water refilling stations are also subject to water sampling, although the tests have to be done in Cebu, Puspus added.

“Mao na ang among gitan.aw karon kung ang tubig ba gayud ang source niining maong bacteria (that is what we are looking at, if it is, indeed, water that is the source of the said bacteria),” she said.

Some of the diarrhea patients were admitted to the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital in Dumaguete City, with a number having been discharged already, while others came down with only mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization, she added.

A forum was held Thursday afternoon to discuss the upsurge of diarrhea cases and to immediately address and contain the problem.

Present during the forum were Sibulan Mayor Pepe Abiera, Dr. Ronald Jarvik Buscato of DOH Region 7, Douglas Vallejo, Jr. of the provincial DOH, Dr. Liland Bustamante, the Assistant Director of the Integrated Provincial Health Office, Bong Ferrero, sanitary inspector of Sibulan, barangay officials, and other stakeholders.

Pending further investigation on the upsurge of diarrhea cases, Puspus said they have distributed jerrycans, “hyposol” water disinfectant and hydrating solutions to residents.

Also, the public is enjoined to boil their water sourced from potentially contaminated sources prior to consumption. (PNA)