FOOD POISONING. Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center officer-in-charge Dr. Ramon Najarro (center) briefs media on the food poisoning case involving a family that ate puffer fish for breakfast in Olango Island, Cebu. (Photo by Luel Galarpe)
CEBU CITY – A five-year-old boy succumbed to food poisoning Tuesday after eating puffer fish, locally known as “buriring”, together with his family in Pangan-anan, Olango Island, Cebu.
Dr. Ramon Najarro, officer-in-charge of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon that the boy was the only casualty among the nine family members after having breakfast.
Najarro said the boy died at home after members of the family, except for the 15-year-old eldest daughter, ate some small puffer fish caught by a male sibling the night before.
The rest of the victims, who all manifested symptoms of food poisoning, were rushed to the Sta. Rosa Community Hospital in Olango and subsequently transferred late Tuesday night to the VSMMC for further treatment.
Najarro said they could not reveal the identity of the deceased and the patients due to data privacy involving personal information.
“They all presented signs of food poisoning – dizziness, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Sadly, the five-year-old son succumbed to the condition at home,” Najarro said.
The parents, however, have already been discharged upon their request, he added.
“They were discharged against the better judgment of the attending physicians. But we have to accede to their request as the father has to take care of his son’s wake and the mother needs to look after their children admitted here at VSMMC,” Najarro said.
Currently being treated at the VSMMC are the five other children – three boys aged 12, 10 and 8, and two girls aged 4 and 2.
“The five children are now relatively stable. Our doctors are constantly monitoring their condition and ensure that appropriate medical treatment is provided until such time that they have attained full recovery,” said Najarro.
The mother, 36-year-old Margie Casiao, who later consented to be interviewed and reveal her identity, said they had been eating puffer fish ever since and they had never been poisoned.
She said they consumed about half a kilogram of the small puffer fish with some small crabs and rice during breakfast.
“I prepared our breakfast. I cleaned the fish and carefully removed the parts that contain the poisonous toxins,” said Casiao in Cebuano as she broke down in tears.
“Nagduwa pa man gani sila human namo og pamahaw (The kids were still playing around after breakfast),” the two-month pregnant mother tearfully recalled.
She said they had breakfast past 7:00 a.m., but six hours later, around 1:00 p.m., her kids felt dizzy, vomited and complained of stomach pains.
Dr. Beethoven Bongon, VSMMC toxicologist, said symptoms of food poisoning due to eating puffer fish typically manifest just 45 minutes after ingestion, and the six hours delay in the manifestation is quite unusual.
“This is why we have to investigate further. The cause could be bacterial. A heavy dose of the toxins from the puffer fish is fatal. Some have died just 15 minutes after ingestion,” Bongon said.
He said they will try to explore other causes of the food poisoning aside from the consumption of puffer fish. (PNA)