2019-09-24 10:58:03

Ninety-nine students from a kindergarten in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong remain hospitalized with suspected food poisoning, local authorities said Monday.

The municipal health bureau in the city of Dongguan said that 103 people, including the 99 children, are still being treated following a “possible foodborne disease outbreak.” An earlier statement from the city’s market supervision bureau said that 242 children and 12 adults from Montai International Kindergarten in Fenggang Town had visited hospitals in Dongguan and Shenzhen since the school reported the cases to the local disease control and prevention center Saturday.

One mother told domestic media outlet Litchi News that several concerned parents had shared their children’s symptoms — including diarrhea, stomachache, and fever — in a WeChat group Saturday morning before notifying the school. She added that the doctors who examined her child said the symptoms were likely from food poisoning or sepsis, a toxic state resulting from bacterial infection.

In its statement, the health bureau said the outbreak could be salmonella — a common bacterium that infects humans through contaminated water or food — and that relevant authorities are investigating any suspicious food items served in the school cafeteria. Authorities also ordered the school to suspend classes on Monday and Tuesday to disinfect the premises.

When Sixth Tone called Montai International Kindergarten on Tuesday, a woman who answered the phone said she was not familiar with the case but added that faculty members were out paying hospital visits. A staff member at the municipal health bureau’s publicity office said no further updates to the investigation were available.

According to a weekly lunch schedule published by the kindergarten on its WeChat account, the school offered two meals, along with fruits and snacks, every day last week. On Friday, the students were served milk and sandwiches after lunch.

Food safety has become a top concern for Chinese parents, as hundreds of students have contracted foodborne illnesses in recent years. After more than 120 kindergartners from three schools in the eastern city of Nanchang were hospitalized with food poisoning in September 2017, a court in February sentenced the manager of a bakery that had provided food items to the schools to four years in prison and fined him 20,000 yuan ($2,800), according to media reports. And last year, 103 children from a public kindergarten in Shanghai were rushed to the hospital in another food poisoning scare.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Exterior and interior views of Montai International Kindergarten in Fenggang Town, Dongguan, Guangdong province. From the website of the school’s ownership group)