PUBLIC health experts have allayed concerns on the possible entry of Nipah virus to the Philippines amid reports of flu-like illnesses in various areas in Northern Mindanao.
Dr. Abdullah Dumama Jr., undersecretary for field implementation and coordination team in Visayas and Mindanao of the Department of Health (DOH), reassured the public that there are no confirmed cases of Nipah virus in the country.
The local government units are also well prepared to confront this threat, drawing from their recent experiences during the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The clarification came in response to earlier reports suggesting a Nipah virus outbreak among students and school personnel in Cagayan de Oro in Northern Mindanao last Wednesday, September 27, 2023.
"This might be a respiratory syncytial virus. However, as of the moment, we do not have any (Nipah) cases yet," said Dumama on Monday, October 2.
Respiratory syncytial virus is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On September 27, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Rolando Uy issued a new order reimposing the observance of the minimum health protocols in public places and transportation.
According to the DOH, the Nipah virus falls into the category of zoonotic viruses, capable of transferring between animals and humans. Fruit bats or flying foxes serve as the virus's animal reservoir.
Typical early symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle pain, vomiting, and a sore throat. In severe cases, it can lead to encephalitis, causing brain swelling and, in some instances, fatalities.
The Nipah virua has already been identified in countries like India and Malaysia, resulting in serious illnesses and deaths in both human and animal populations.
Based on a 2018 report published by the World Health Organization, the virus carries an estimated fatality rate ranging from 40 percent to 75 percent.
The actual rate can fluctuate during outbreaks depending on the local capacity for epidemiological surveillance and clinical management.
Director Jaime Bernadas of DOH Central Visayas emphasized the importance of vigilance and the practice of health and safety measures.
"In light of the previous viral pandemic, we emphasize the importance of personal hygiene, avoiding crowded places, and using protective devices when necessary," he said.
He said the local government units are fully prepared to combat the virus by implementing lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. (KJF)