(Drinking) Fountains of Youth

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Hepatitis A downed 312 students of University of Santo Tomas (UST) since December up to March. The outbreak among the students was allegedly caused by food and water contamination and, later on, person-to-person contact. Authorities pointed to the water pipe system at Dapitan Street as the source of the water contamination. Most of the afflicted students reportedly came from high school department. At least 32 students were admitted at the UST hospital.

Although the UST denied repeatedly that there was an outbreak, the school administration reportedly agreed to shut down all drinking fountains in the school and provide students with chlorinated drinking water through water dispensers.

Unsatisfied with the turn of events, UST students announced in March its plan to file a class suit against the school administration and three government agencies for failing to prevent the Hepatitis A outbreak by repairing the school’s leaking and rusting pipes. The three state-run offices included in the class suit were the DOH for allegedly failing to extend adequate treatment and free testing the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewarage System for not insuring the safety of UST’s water supply; and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for its failure to intervene on the students’ behalf.

The UST students also reportedly sought President Ramos’ intervention as they claimed that the school has not taken concrete steps to address the crisis and help the victims.

Later in March, the students asked the DOH and CHED to immediately close UST for allegedly operating under unhealthy conditions. The issues on the said outbreak ran for three months in the national dailies.

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