Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Official statement of the Philippine Department of Health on the swine flu virus

This past weekend saw a flurry of reports that can hardly be missed with regard to the swine flu outbreak that has spread through parts of Mexico City, reaching places as far away as Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.

The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) has just issued an official statement/advisory with regard to the swine flu virus. Major points in the statement include:

1) The current H1N1 strain of the swine flu virus is a novel one, an unusual combination of pig, bird, and human genetic materials. Consequently, no vaccine is available yet.

2) Human-to-human transmission looks like the mode of illness transmission.

3) The multilevel response of the DOH includes detection of possible infected individuals coming in via the various Philippine ports of entry; identification of local outbreaks of influenze-like illnesses, and; treatment of such individuals in referral hospitals.

4) As a precaution, the DOH recommends the following:

a) Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

b) Wash hands regularly with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.

c) Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective

d) Avoid close contact with sick people.

e) If sick, self-monitor and stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.

f) Consult your doctor immediately should signs and symptoms of flu persist.

g) While no travel ban to Mexico and other affected countries is issued, travelers to these countries are however "asked to reconsider their plans to travel to Mexico and other affected countries unless extremely necessary."

5) Contact your local health center or call the DOH Hotline +6327111001 / +6327111002 if you or a family member or a neighbor exhibits flu-like illness including the following symptoms- fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting ESPECIALLY after travel to the swine flu affected countries or having come in contact with someone who has traveled to these place.

More information on the swine flu virus can be found here http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/.

Here is the full text of the official statement of the Philippine Department of Health regarding the swine flu virus issued on April 27, 2009 (taken from http://www.doh.gov.ph/node/2258).

Today, the Department of Health (DOH) clarifies that there are no reports yet of swine flu among humans in the Philippines in relation to the outbreak that originated from Mexico and other affected countries.

This morning, however, we have convened an emergency meeting to develop recommendations that will make our country better prepared to face this recent occurrence of swine flu among humans.

The DOH is emphasizing that the H1N1 swine flu virus recently discovered in Mexico is an entirely novel strain. Experts describe it as having an unusual combination of genetic material from pigs, birds and humans which have reassorted and caused the development of the current human H1N1 swine influenza virus. This is the first time that such a virus has been isolated with evidence of human-to-human transmission. There is no available vaccine as of yet specific for this virus.

Following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) alert to all its member states on April 25 that the outbreak has escalated into a “public health emergency of international concern,” the DOH immediately stepped up its surveillance and biosecurity measures in all international and local airports to prevent the entry of the virus, which has now killed 81 individuals in Mexico and possibly infected and unconfirmed number of other individuals in certain parts of other countries like U.S. and Canada.

The Bureau of Quarantine has already instituted precautionary measures in major ports and possible entry points of the virus in the country. All quarantine stations are already implementing health surveillance measures including thermal scanning of all arriving passengers from countries with reported swine flu cases. Travelers will also be required to fill up a Health Declaration Checklist to screen for potential signs and symptoms and possible exposure to the virus.

A Health Alert Notice (HAN) on flu-like illness or Swine Influenza Virus (SIV) will also be distributed to all arriving travelers especially from the U.S. and Mexico. We will also convene another meeting with all stakeholders at our ports for a more heightened and coordinated response against the entry of the virus.

All DOH Regional Health Offices and local government units are requested to look out for influenza outbreaks, influenza-like illness (ILI) and /or atypical pneumonia in their areas of jurisdiction and to immediately report such cases to the National Epidemiology Center and/or the Health Emergency Management Staff. (DOH HOTLINE: 7111001 / 7111002)

The DOH Referral Hospitals for Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) have also been primed to ready their facilities to receive patients confirmed or suspected to have been infected with the novel swine flu virus. These referral centers include the Research Institute of Medicine (RITM), the San Lazaro Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines, all of which are equipped with negative pressure isolation rooms for managing patients infected with highly virulent and pathogenic microorganisms.

The DOH is gearing up to respond to and manage the potential entry of the H1N1 swine flu virus in the country. Sufficient number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the antiviral drug, Oseltamivir, are available and will be given to high-risk exposure groups which include frontline health workers and surveillance teams at the national and local levels.

Meanwhile, we are now advising the public that there is no travel ban being issued by this Department to Mexico and other affected countries. Travelers are however asked to reconsider their plans to travel to Mexico and other affected countries unless extremely necessary.

As a precaution, the DOH recommends the following:
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Wash hands regularly with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective
Avoid close contact with sick people.
If sick, self-monitor and stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.
Consult your doctor immediately should signs and symptoms of flu persist.

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