Thursday, 30 October 2014

PIA News Dispatch - Monday, October 13, 2014

Government focuses on fight against Ebola, MERS-COV

President Benigno S. Aquino III has underscored the importance of global cooperation to prevent the spread of deadly diseases, such as the Ebola virus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

In his speech during the opening of the 65th Session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Pasay City on Monday, President Aquino said stopping the spread of these contagious diseases is a “paramount concern” of the administration, considering the significant number of Filipinos working abroad.

“Outbreaks of illnesses and diseases like the MERS-Coronavirus and Ebola are among the greatest challenges the world faces today,” he said before hundreds of international health officials at the Philippine International Convention Center.

“For the Philippines, specifically, the fact that we have ten million of our countrymen living and working abroad, makes these kinds of outbreaks a paramount concern,” he added.

The President shared how the government, through the Department of Health (DOH), managed to prevent the spread of MERS-Coronavirus in the Philippines despite the more than one million Filipinos living and working in the Middle East.

He said the DOH has been tasked to continue to educate the public about the deadly diseases without causing fear and panic, and to come up with an efficient and safe way to monitor the exposure of the people to such diseases.

He assured that the government will continue to exert effort to keep all Filipinos safe and healthy amid the global threat of pandemics.

The President also gave a rundown of the government’s achievements in the health sector, including the expansion of PhilHealth coverage and the passage of the sin tax and reproductive health bills.

Earlier, he welcomed the participants of the WHO regional committee, noting that it has been 25 years since the Philippines last hosted the event.

“Back then, it was my mother, President Corazon Aquino, who welcomed your predecessors to our country, where they would discuss, among others, infant and child nutrition, the WHO’s expanded immunization program, and financial policies and strategies in public health,” he said.

Meanwhile, in his opening remarks, WHO Executive Director Ian Smith thanked the Philippine government for hosting this year's meeting of the regional committee.
Characterizing the Filipinos as “well-known survivors”, Smith expressed optimism that the Philippines could prevent the importation of Ebola virus as the country has survived various disasters in recent years.

About 250 representatives of member countries and partners are attending the meeting, which will tackle important health issues, among them emergencies and disasters, universal coverage, antimicrobial resistance, tobacco, and mental health. PND (jb)

Overseas Filipino workers returning from countries hit by Ebola virus need medical clearance

The Department of Health (DOH) is planning to require a medical clearance from Filipinos who are returning from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, which have been struck by the deadly Ebola virus, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said on Monday.

“We are now making arrangements na iyong ating mga Filipino workers doon … dapat bago sila makauwi dito, we will require them to have a so-called medical clearance,” he said on the sidelines of the 65th Session of the World Health Organization Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, being held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

Secretary Ona said the medical clearance would state if the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) has been exposed to people who have contracted or have died of Ebola fever.

He suggested that before coming home, the OFW should observe himself for 21 days to see if he shows any symptom of the disease.

“Ang ating nire-require is paalam muna or let’s say, bago siya gumawa ng kanyang travel arrangements, maghintay siya ng mga --- magplano siya at least --- ‘di ba kung uuwi ka naman, siguro naman you will plan more than 21 days, ‘di ba? Except lang siguro kung emergency. And then kung wala naman, he will be given a medical clearance and makakauwi na siya,” he explained.

He noted that Ebola fever is not contagious until the patient shows symptoms.

“Ganito ang unique about Ebola, hindi nakakahawa habang wala pang symptoms... Therefore, dapat mga 21 days ka na walang symptoms na parang influenza. Then, pwede ka nang makauwi,” he said.

As soon as the OFW arrives in the country, he will fill out a form so that the DOH could monitor his health, Ona said, adding that if the OFW does show symptoms of the disease, he should get in touch with the DOH via a phone call or a text message.

“Kung meron kang symptoms of parang ‘nung bad flu, sasabihin namin ‘pumarito ka’, parang ‘pumunta ka doon’. Let’s say, nasa Mindanao ka, nasa Cagayan de Oro, sasabihin namin kung saan kang ospital pupunta,” he explained.

He said the department has identified hospitals all over the country where Ebola patients will be isolated and examined.

He said the screening will focus on people returning from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, where there are 1,755 OFWs.

Asked if the Philippines would send health workers and volunteers to the three countries, Ona said the government is still discussing this.

“We will be helping whether in kind or whatever. But kung anong klaseng tulong, hindi pa nade-desisyunan,” he said. PND (ag)