MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Philippine government is taking all necessary precautions to ensure that the dreaded Ebola virus now spreading in West Africa will not reach the country.
“The Department of Health has made all necessary preparations, making sure if Ebola comes, we have all the necessary capacity, laboratory tests, as well as negative pressure rooms where to confine them,” said Health Secretary Enrique Ona.
According to Ona, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang is equipped with 6 negative pressure rooms.
“Kung ang pasyente nasa loob, kasi negative pressure, yung kwartong yun ang hangin doon lamang. Hindi lumalabas ang hanging palabas,” he explained.
The Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City also has two negative pressure rooms, he said.
The RITM also has a unit which monitors new information, treatment and diagnostic procedures for newly emerging or even re-emerging diseases.
Ona said the DOH, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs as well as the Department of Labor and Employment, is closely monitoring and working with overseas Filipino workers in countries where the virus has spread.
He added that an inter-agency task force has already placed three countries in West Africa, where Ebola virus is spreading, under level 2. These are Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
Under level 2, Ona said no new workers will be allowed to be deployed those countries and likewise advise those already there to come home.
“As of three or four days ago, the number of cases in four affected African countries—Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria – the total number of patients that has been affected is 1,323 and about 50 percent, 729 have died,” Ona said.
He said, “Parang 50 percent ang mortality rate. So, any sakit pag ganun ang percentage ng number of deaths it means it is serious.”
Data from the DFA showed there are 880 Filipinos living in Guinea; 1,179 in Sierra Leone; 632 in Liberia, including the 148 Filipinos in the UN Peacekeeping force.
In terms of OFWs, there are 72 in Guinea, 398 in Sierra Leone, and 202 in Liberia. He described the OFWs as “professionals” working in oil industries and construction.
Director Nini Lanto of the POEA OFW Health Concern said they are in consultation with both land- and sea –based agencies. After that, the POEA will issue a memorandum circular on protective mechanisms against the virus.
“Mainly mga reporting systems. Pinapaigting po natin ang mga reporting system natin from the land-based sand also from the sea-based sectors. Tayo po ay nakahandang pangalagaan ang kanilang (OFW) kapakanan, pati po pamilyang uuwian nila dito,” said Lanto.
Lanto said seafarers are not so much of a concern than land-based OFWs as the latter’s destinations are really determined in their contracts.
“If we process a land-based worker, nakalagay yung jobsite – Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. Unlike sa sea-based ang nakalagay lang na destination worldwide,” Lanto said.
Lanto added that their only concern for sea-based workers is when their ships pass through restricted countries.
“At saka yung mag stop sila to change crew and load and unload cargos. Our precautionary measures, we require agencies to report to us, they inform us and seek clearance if they can deploy seafarers to these areas and citing to us the circumstances of their travel. We get an undertaken from the master that our seafarers will not be granted shore leave, di bababa,” she said.
Only 7 patients under observation
Ona also revealed that only seven people remain under observation out of the 15 that arrived from West African countries.
The DOH said all airline passengers must accomplish a health declaration check list upon their arrival in the Philippines.
“There is a question they have to answer whether in the past 2 weeks, 14 days, whether nagkaroon sila ng fever or symptoms very similar to flu,” he said.
He explained that coughing is primarily the source of infection.
“Itong Ebola virus infection ang main way of getting infected is still from body fluids, ubo or blood or stools or even from sex. The most common is still ubo,” he said.
He advised the public to practice good hygiene, especially hand washing, and to stay as healthy as possible.
“Tayo ay talagang ready and at the same time, not to worry. The national government has taken all necessary precaution so that this virus will not reach out country,” he said. (MNS)