DOH open to deploying experts in Ebola-hit countries

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014


THE Department of Health (DOH) expressed readiness on Tuesday to deploy medical professionals to help contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

In a press conference, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said they are prepared to deploy health workers if agreed upon by the Inter-Agency Task Force of the government.

"We have the experts here and we will consider that in our discussion because we heard that there is a real shortage of personnel there," said Ona.

DOH spokesperson Dr Lyndon Lee Suy further said that their meeting to determine if they will be sending experts to Ebola-hit countries.

"We will look into all factors such as if we send our people, will they be helpful or a nuisance there. Also, if we send them out, will they be able to help but also risk the possibility of getting the virus. We want to look into all of these first," said Lee Suy.

On Monday night, the World Health Organization (WHO) appealed to the international community to provide them with doctors, nurses, health staff, and other public health staff in a bid to combat the deadly Ebola disease menacing Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

"We are looking at hundreds of international staff that we would like to get into region as fast as possible,” said WHO Spokesman Gregory Hartl.

Based on the latest data from the WHO, there are already 1,603 cases including 887 deaths reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

In the meantime, the DOH chief said it remains on top of the situation in terms of ensuring that the virus will not penetrate the country by closely monitoring all possible ports of entry such as by requiring arriving passengers to fill-up Health Declaration Checklists.

This, he said, does not yet include the requirement for a medical clearance with the local health authorities from the country of employment.

"We are still Ebola-free. But we are on our toes," assured Ona. "We are ready and, at the same time, do not worry. We assure you that the national government has taken all the necessary measures so that the virus does not reach our country."

To note, seven of the 15 Filipinos that recently returned from Sierra Leone remain under close monitoring by the DOH for possible symptoms of the Ebola disease.

And even in the case of having an Ebola positive case, Ona assured that the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is capable of handling them.

"If the Ebola affects a Pinoy passenger, we have all the necessary capacity, laboratory tests as well as yung the so-called negative pressure rooms, where we will confine them and treat them," said Ona.

Ebola is a severe, infectious, often fatal disease in humans and primates (monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees) caused by infection from the Ebola virus.

It can be transmitted through close contact with: blood secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals, body fluids and stools of an infected person, through contaminated needles and soiled linen used by infected patients, or direct contact with the body a deceased person.

Signs and symptoms of infection with Ebola virus include fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains and sore throat; this is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding; sometimes, rash, red eyes, hiccups and bleeding from body openings may be seen in some patients.

The DOH said suspected cases should be taken immediately to the nearest health facility for medical attention, as severe cases require intensive supportive care. (HDT/Sunnex)

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