MANILA - The number of patients rushed to hospitals for food poisoning after attending former first lady Imelda Marcos' birthday party in Pasig City Wednesday has reached over 200, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
In a press conference, Duque said there were 261 patients in different hospitals, and that it was still uncertain if the figure would further rise.
"It is really a case of food poisoning, at such a big scale, affecting more than 240, actually 261, and we are still not sure whether the number will continue to rise," Duque said.
He also said government hospitals are fully-equipped to deal with the cases.
"This is quite a huge number but suffice it to say that our hospital, our government hospital in general and in particular, the Rizal Medical Center, is fully equipped to deal with these cases," he said.
"We have no problems in terms of supplies of needed medicine and rehydrating fluid," Duque added.
Duque said the food poisoning may have been caused by the staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
The patients were known to have consumed packed lunches of adobo with eggs at the event at the Ynares Sports Complex. They experienced stomach ache and vomiting around 11 a.m., authorities earlier said.
"The suspect cases of food poisoning could be due to a toxin from staphylococccus aureus and this could be the culprit or the causative organism. We are waiting for validation though," he said.
Authorities will have the results in two to three days.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who carry Staph, bacteria found on the skin and nose, may contaminate the food they touch if they do not wash their hands.
The bacteria can then multiply in the food and produce toxins that cause poisoning. The CDC said food contaminated by with Staph toxin "may not smell bad or look spoiled."
Duque advised those who were at the event to go to hospitals as soon as they feel something.
"Ako po ay nanawagan doon sa mga nakakain at kung pupuwede lang ho, 'wag na nating hintayin lumubha ang inyo pong mga kondisyon, ay pumunta na ho kayo sa mga ospital," he said.
(I called on those who ate food at the event, if possible, don't wait for your condition to worsen, go to the hospital.)
Marcos' daughter, Sen. Imee Marcos, said the food may have gone bad because it had been at the venue since morning.
She promised to visit all those stricken with food poisoning.
Former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. also said the event organizers are already investigating the incident.
He apologized for what happened, and promised his family's continuous help and support to the victims.
"Kami po ay nakikipag-ugnayan sa mga naapektuhan at patuloy na umaasikaso sa kanila. Ako po ay humihingi ng paumanhin at lubos na pag-unawa sa nangyaring ito. Makaaasa po kayo sa aming tulong hanggang sa lahat ay tuluyang gumaling," Bongbong Marcos said in a statement.
(We are coordinating with all those affected and we are continuously looking after them. I would like to apologize and seek understanding for this incident. We will be extending our help until everyone gets better.)