ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines - Four people died while 16 others were hospitalized in Zamboanga del Norte because of a mysterious illness, health officials said Friday.
The victims, who all live in Barangay Mantebo, Sibuco town in Zamboanga del Norte, complained of pain and numbness in their lower extremities.
Pantera Nadjal, one of the patients said she started feeling numbness and a tingling sensation in her feet and legs starting last May.
"Parang hangin dito sa paa nagsimula tapos umakyat hanggang sa tyan," Nadjal said.
Fifteen other villagers who experienced the same sysmptoms have been admitted at the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC).
Dr. Saibzur Edding, Sibuco hospital chief, said other residents of Mantebo were admitted to the hospital.
Four have died due to the unidentified infection.
Edding said there is no mining activity in or near Mantebo. Fishermen also do not use either dynamite or cyanide when fishing.
Dr. Maribel Felisario, ZCMC information officer, said they sent samples of the patients' urine and blood to the Department of Health in Manila for testing.
They have also gathered samples from the village including water, fish, and seaweeds that are reportedly part of the patients' diet.
Felisario said they have encountered similar cases before but "this one is different since the patients come from one area."