Task force vs emerging infectious diseases created

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014


PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has formed an inter-agency task force to help the government effectively and systematically manage and address emerging infectious diseases in the country in order to prevent potential public health emergencies.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. on Wednesday said the President signed Executive Order 168 on May 26, establishing the Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID), which will be led by the Department of Health (DOH), to ensure that the country is prepared to respond and control the spread of possible epidemics in the Philippines.

The presidential order takes effect immediately after publication in a newspaper of national circulation.

"Considering the threats and potential adverse effects of these EID to our people and economy, it is essential for the government to intensify its efforts," Ochoa said.

"The creation of the task force is necessary to institutionalize efficient government response to assess, monitor, contain and prevent the spread of EID in the country and among Filipinos working overseas," he added.

Ochoa said the emergence of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERs-CoV), as well as the recurring threats of meningococcemia, leptospiroris, antimicrobial resistant tuberculosis, among others, justifies the establishment of the task force, which members also include the Departments of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Justice (DOJ), Labor and Employment (DOLE), Tourism (DOT) and Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

Under the EO, the Task Force on EID is directed to establish a system in managing the dangers posed by recurring and emerging EID in order to properly identify, screen and assist Filipinos suspected or confirmed to be infected with EID.

Part of the mandate of the task force is to prevent and minimize the entry of suspected or confirmed patients with EID into the country and its spread around the country, as well as conduct public education on the prevention and control of EID.

EO 168 also empowers the task force to enlist, if necessary, the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies, among others, in enforcing quarantine orders or facilitating the transport of EID patients.

The DOH-led task control should also develop the EID Preparedness Manual that will detail government response and protocols in managing EID cases, such as quarantine procedures, immediate containment of EID within ports of entry, epidemiological investigation and contact tracing, treatment of infected cases and containments of affected areas, formulation of a risk communication plan and EID materials for the general public, and respective responsibilities of government agencies.

Funding of the task force will be drawn against the current appropriations of its member-agencies and will eventually be incorporated in their annual budget proposal through General Appropriations Act. Additional funds and fund sources to augment existing budget of the task force must be identified and provided for by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). (SDR/Sunnex)

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