DOH 7 urges public to be alert, not panic

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014


THE Bureau of Quarantine (BQ) is closely monitoring passengers arriving from Hong Kong and Singapore for potential carriers of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (Mers-Cov).

The Department of Health (DOH) 7 is monitoring 22 possible cases of Mers-Cov. Eighteen of these cases are in Cebu, two are in Bohol and another two are in Negros Oriental.

Of the 18, three live in Mandaue City.

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One of them tested negative of the virus, said DOH 7 yesterday. The other two are still undergoing laboratory tests.

Renan Cimafranca of the DOH 7's Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit said four persons volunteered to be tested yesterday, bringing the number of potential MERS-CoV cases in Cebu to 18.

OFWs

The four persons who volunteered to be tested are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who worked in the Middle East and returned to the Philippines on April 15 on board an Etihad Airlines flight.

Dr. Terence Bermejo, BQ 7 acting chief, said BQ personnel will use thermal scanners to determine if a person has fever. Passengers with high fever will be brought to the BQ office for health evaluation.

Bermejo said if the person had been to the Middle East recently, he or she will be brought to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center for laboratory tests.

“He can be released only if the tests will come out negative,” Bermejo said.

Acting Director Emmanuel Labella of BQ Central Office in Manila issued a memorandum circular ordering Cebu officials and personnel to be extra-vigilant to ensure that passengers arriving at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) from the Middle East are not infected by the virus.

Flights

As there are no direct flights from Middle Eastern countries to Cebu, those who come from the region would have connecting flights in Hong Kong and Singapore. The flight to Doha, Qatar was discontinued two years ago.

“BQ officials and personnel must make sure that every international passenger who arrives from the Middle East either via Hong Kong or Singapore must be free from Mers-Cov,” Labella told Sun.Star Cebu.

Bermejo said they are distributing health declaration checklists and health alert notices to international passengers arriving at the MCIA.

The form contains information like the name of the passenger, address, arrival date, airport of origin, flight number, seat number and the countries visited in the past 10 days.

“We only screen flights from Hong Kong and Singapore,” Bermejo said.

Isolation rooms

Dr. Gerardo Aquino, medical chief of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), said six of the hospital’s negative pressure rooms are used by 10 suspected Mers-Cov patients so they are preparing another wing to accommodate more patients.

The additional wing will serve as isolation rooms, Aquino added.

Eight out of the 10 patients at VSMMC are asymptomatic while the other two are still being observed.

A person is asymptomatic if he does not manifest symptoms of the illness or may be infected by the virus but does not show the signs associated with Mers-Cov.

Test

Dr. Jaime Bernadas, DOH 7 director, urged those who have recently been to the Middle East to submit themselves for tests.

The DOH 7 got private hospitals to agree to prepare isolation rooms for Mers-Cov patients.

The DOH 7 urged the public not to be alarmed and briefed local officials about the virus.

Flyers were also handed out detailing information on Mers-Cov.

To build resistance against the virus, DOH 7 urges everyone to have enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat a balanced diet, wash hands frequently and avoid contact with sick people. (Christine Joy V. Fernando, CNU Comm Intern)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 23, 2014.

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