By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
IMUS, Cavite – Classes in a private school remained suspended on Friday after over 40 students were rushed to the hospital for showing symptoms of suspected food poisoning.
School operations have been suspended at the Imus Institute of Science and Technology (IIST) – Dimasalang Campus after 42 of its students fell ill and were brought to the Emergency Room (ER) of the Our Lady of the Pillar Medical Center (OLPMC) since Wednesday night.
According to IIST Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Loida Sta. Maria, the school personnel brought students to the OLPMC after complaining of abdominal pains and vomiting.
“Our first move is to bring them to the hospital with their parents,” she explained.
“We personally brought them here at the hospital and we looked on the situation of those who are confined and talked to their parents,” she added.
Initial investigation showed that the students might be suffering from food poisoning based on the “same symptoms” that were manifested. However, Sta. Maria clarified that an investigation was still ongoing to find out what “really happened.”
“We’re conducting the investigation kung ano talaga yung nangyari,” Sta Maria said.
“Rest assured that we are doing our best to really solve this problem and one of these days, we are going to come up with a report of what really happened,” she added.
Due to the incident, Sta Maria said classes in IIST have been suspended in IIST since Thursday, July 11.
“We suspended the classes because there will be no food because the stalls and canteens are closed until further notice,” she said.
Students who showed symptoms of possible food poisoning such as stomach ache and vomiting were rushed to the OLPMC while those who did not complain of any symptoms were allowed to go home.
“We asked their parents or guardians to fetch them from school and for those who do not have ‘sundo’, we brought them to their respective houses to make sure that they get home safely,” Sta. Maria added.
Classes are expected to resume on July 15, Monday. As of late Thursday night, seven of the 42 students were still confined. OLPMC President Dr. Gima Aniceto said that as of 5 p.m. of July 10, a total of 35 patients were diagnosed but discharged soon after.
“They were considered as outpatients only,” she explained. Aniceto said that the seven patients were still “under observation” for further treatment.
“We are looking at them medically, we’re stabilizing them and we’re giving them the necessary first aid to treat them,” she explained.
“Stable naman sila,” she added.
Based on the initial findings, the patients suffered from acute gastroenteritis. Aniceto said that the students must have “ingested something” that is contaminated.
“Pwede itong manggaling sa iba’t-ibang causes like bacteria, virus, or sa pagkain,” she says.
“For food poisoning, titingnan muna naming yung circumstances, mag-i-investigate muna kami,” she added. Aniceto said that food poisoning was not officially ruled out as the cause of the hospitalization of the IIST students but it is remained a possibility. This was because almost all of them complained of “same symptoms” such as abdominal pains and vomiting – which are common signs of food poisoning.
“Most of the time, kapag galing sila [patients] sa iisang lugar at pare-pareho ng pinanggalingan ng pagkain nila, pwede natin ito i-consider,” she added. Meanwhile, Aniceto reminded the public that food poisoning is particularly common due to weather changes.
“Mas madali tumubo ang bacteria dahil sa klima at siyempre, kailangan din tingnan yung klase ng pagkain na kakainin nila,” she explained.
Given this, Aniceto stressed that it was the responsibility of everyone – in restaurants or any establishment that give food – to ensure that the food is prepared and handle properly.
“Malaking bagay sa mga tao na maging secured na malinis ang kinakain nila,” she said. Should there be cases of suspected food poisoning, Aniceto asked parents, teachers, and school administrators alike to “immediately bring children and students to the hospital.” This was to “immediately assess their condition and be provided with necessary treatment such as hydration as soon as possible.”
As a precautionary measure, Sta. Maria said that canteens and other food stalls inside the IIST campus premises will remain closed. If possible, students are urged to bring their own food or “baon” to school to help ensure that these are prepared accordingly and prevent possible cases of food poisoning.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) has yet to issue a statement on the case, saying that it was still “waiting for the incident report.”