THE Department of Health (DOH) clarifies that there are no reports yet of swine flu among humans in the Philippines in relation to the outbreak that originated from Mexico and other affected countries.
The government agency emphasizes that the H1N1 swine flu virus recently discovered in Mexico is an entirely novel strain.
Experts describe it as having an unusual combination of genetic material from pigs, birds and humans which have reassorted and caused the development of the current human H1N1 swine influenza virus.
This is the first time that such a virus has been isolated with evidence of human-to-human transmission. There is no available vaccine as of yet specific for this virus.
The World Health Organization alerted all its member states on April 25 that the outbreak has escalated into a “public health emergency of international concern.”
The DOH immediately stepped up its surveillance and biosecurity measures in all international and local airports to prevent the entry of the virus.
A total of 81 individuals have been killed in Mexico and possibly infected and unconfirmed number of other individuals in certain parts of other countries like U.S. and Canada.
The Bureau of Quarantine has already instituted precautionary measures in major ports and possible entry points of the virus in the country.
All quarantine stations are already implementing health surveillance measures including thermal scanning of all arriving passengers from countries with reported swine flu cases. Travelers will also be required to fill up a Health Declaration Checklist to screen for potential signs and symptoms and possible exposure to the virus.
A Health Alert Notice (HAN) on flu-like illness or Swine Influenza Virus (SIV) will also be distributed to all arriving travelers especially from the U.S. and Mexico. We will also convene another meeting with all stakeholders at our ports for a more heightened and coordinated response against the entry of the virus.
All DOH Regional Health Offices and local government units are requested to look out for influenza outbreaks, influenza-like illness (ILI) and /or atypical pneumonia in their areas of jurisdiction and to immediately report such cases to the National Epidemiology Center and/or the Health Emergency Management Staff. (DOH HOTLINE: 7111001 / 7111002)
The DOH Referral Hospitals for Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) have also been primed to ready their facilities to receive patients confirmed or suspected to have been infected with the novel swine flu virus.
These referral centers include the Research Institute of Medicine (RITM), the San Lazaro Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines, all of which are equipped with negative pressure isolation rooms for managing patients infected with highly virulent and pathogenic microorganisms.
The DOH said it is gearing up to respond to and manage the potential entry of the H1N1 swine flu virus in the country. Sufficient number of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the antiviral drug, Oseltamivir, are available and will be given to high-risk exposure groups which include frontline health workers and surveillance teams at the national and local levels.
Meanwhile, the DOH is advising the public that there is no travel ban being issued by this Department to Mexico and other affected countries.
Travelers are however asked to reconsider their plans to travel to Mexico and other affected countries unless extremely necessary.
As a precaution, the DOH recommends the following:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
• Wash hands regularly with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective
• Avoid close contact with sick people.
• If sick, self-monitor and stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.
• Consult your doctor immediately should signs and symptoms of flu persist.