This man was among hundreds of people injured as Filipinos ushered in the New Year.  (AFP/Getty Images)

MANILA — The Department of Health’s (DOH) National Epidemiology Center registered a total of 949 cases of firecracker and stray bullet-related injuries from Dec. 21 to Jan. 4, 2.2 percent higher than the number recorded during the same period last year.

Of the 949 cases as of press time, 916 were firecracker-related injuries, 58 of which have resulted in amputation while 129 cases have caused eye injuries.

A DOH report showed that 488 (53 percent) were active users who directly handled firecrackers.

Of these cases, 429 (47 percent) were caused by illegal fireworks, 234 (55 percent) of which were due to piccolo.

The DOH also registered two more cases of stray bullet-related injuries from Region 2, bringing to 28 the total number of cases this year.

As this developed, the DOH and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) warned that firecrackers are contaminated with animal manure so those who have untreated wounds and burns should get anti-tetanus shots to prevent infection.

PMA president Oscar Tinio said firecracker manufacturers put soil in their products, which could be contaminated with animal manure, thus making them more prone to tetanus.

Tinio underscored the need for those injured from firecracker blasts to get anti-tetanus shots before infection sets in.

“It is better (for doctors) to give shots than not give because an infection can be debilitating. It can even cause death. And once the infection sets it, it is harder to treat the patient,” he said.

Tetanus can develop from eight days to three weeks after sustaining an injury.

It is characterized by headache, lockjaw, high fever and weakness but in severe cases, a patient may develop respiratory spasm leading to death.

DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said animals excrete bacteria through manure so the firecracker-related wounds and burns are susceptible to tetanus.

Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Director Alan Purisima ordered a deeper probe into the death of a seven-year-old girl who was hit by a stray bullet during the New Year revelry.

Purisima directed the Manila Police District (MPD) to subject under ballistic examination firearms of all policemen living within the 100-meter radius from where the victim, Angelica de la Cruz, was hit by a stray bullet.

“If there’s at least 1,000 policemen living in the area, all of their firearms should undergo ballistic examination for us to identify the culprit,” said Purisima in an interview.

He said murder charges await the guilty party in the girl’s death.

De la Cruz was welcoming the New Year when a neighbor, Federico Jaymalin, invited her inside his house to partake of their feast.

The victim refused and instead ran into the lap of her mother, who was sitting on the pavement along Peñarrubia Street in Binondo at around 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Minutes later, the mother said she heard her daughter cry in pain.

Jaymalin said the family only realized that De la Cruz was hit by a stray bullet when blood started oozing out of her left shoulder.

The child’s father rushed his daughter to the nearby Gat Andres Bonifacio Hospital where she died.

Purisima directed the MPD homicide section to start their investigation on the slug, which was embedded in the victim’s body.

Chief Superintendent Juanito Vano, NCRPO’s chief of staff, said a total of 29 people were hit by stray bullets during the holiday season but only De la Cruz was killed.

The NCRPO arrested 11 people for indiscriminate firing of guns and for selling illegal firecrackers, including PO1 Fulgencio Sideco, assigned at the NCRPO’s regional police holding administration unit.

Vano said the NCRPO has started dismissal proceedings against Sideco, while the remaining 10 others were charged criminally in court.

In Davao City, police nabbed 91 violators of the firecracker ban from Christmas to New Year’s Day.

Region 11 police spokesman Superintendent Jose Carumba, however, said that despite the arrests, Davao experienced generally peaceful Yuletide celebrations.

He said 49 out of the 91 arrested were minors.

Carumba said Maco town in Compostela Valley recorded one person hurt by firecracker while another is now in critical condition after being hit by a stray bullet in the town of Sto. Tomas in Davao del Norte.

Carumba said like Davao City, the provinces of Davao Oriental and Davao del Sur recorded zero casualties during the Christmas and New Year revelry.

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