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DOH IX gears for preparedness plan vs pandemic influenza

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The Department of Health IX (DOH) is preparing a preparedness and response plan for pandemic influenza in this region which was pattered from the Philippine Pandemic Preparedness and Response Plan.

Dr. Norvie Jalani, DOH IX Epidemiologist, said that included in the preparedness and response plan are the preparations for Avian Flu, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) will also be added, Jalani said.

“The aim of the plan is to provide comprehensive guide for the preparedness and response to pandemic influenza, be it avian, SARS or other new flu disease like the MERS-CoV," she added.

Since 2005, during the advent of avian flu, it is a must to have a plan. from avian flu, to SARS, to AH1N1, this is the same plan being followed but this is always being updated, according to Jalani.

The preparedness plan and response plan has each components for preparedness, the office wanted to highlight the strengthened  management structure for the prevention and control of pandemic influenza and other emerging infections from the regional and local level, sustain and enhance the surveillance system for Pandemic Influenza, ensuring readiness of health facilities, service, manpower and supplies for the management of cases and public health measures for education and communication for the pandemic.

Jalani said since 2005, DOH Regional Office have prepared satellite hospitals, health manpower and upgraded their capabilities if in case a pandemic strikes in the region.

All were given training to include nurses and physicians and facilities were also upgraded.

She stressed that “We are prepared, the Department of Health is prepared, the facilities and equipment are in place, there is no problem with the national government, and it’s the Local Government that also needs to be checked upon when it comes to readiness.”

However, she said that “The Local Government Unit (LGU) themselves must also be prepared, because the LGU’s shall provide majority the basic needs, the DOH will facilitate their readiness but not entirely to give everything.”

The MERS-CoV will still have to be added in the preparedness and response plan for pandemic influenza as the 17 DOH regions are still waiting for the guidelines coming from the DOH National Epidemiology Center, Research Institute for Topical Medicine and several researches from the World Health Organization (WHO).

These three diseases, Avian Flu, SARS, and the MERS-CoV came from the family of influenza or flu what is common with these diseases are the mode of transmission: that is human to human and they are respiratory diseases. They only differ in the clinical spectrum, incubation period and probably origin.

The management for these cases will be isolation, use of antiviral agents, infection control, and quarantine of contacts.

However for MERS-CoV, later stages the patient shows severe pneumonia or infection of the lungs, patients had flu for 7 days then progressed to severe pneumonia and kidney failure. But she said that there is no reason to panic, because sustained human to human transmission is not yet concluded.

MERS-CoV was discovered last 2012 in Saudi Arabia which killed several individuals in the Middle East.

Jalani said that the office is confident with the region’s top caliber hospital, nurses, and physicians which are all trained and prepared in case the MERS-CoV comes in.

For the public she said that basic hand hygiene and cough manners are still the strongest prevention measures for MERS-CoV.

“For our brothers and sisters who came from the Arabian peninsula, please do not forget to protect yourselves. Washing your hands with soap and water after touching a sick person and before touching yourself is paramount, also covering ones mouth and nose while sneezing must also be practiced always.”

For those OFW, she said “When you go home to the Philippines, we recommend for you to stay at least 10 days observing for the development of flu symptoms. Especially health care workers who have been exposed to patients with probable MERS-CoV infection.

In Zamboanga City, the biggest public hospital Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) has already expressed preparedness for the possible entry of MERS-CoV.

ZCMC Chief of Hospital, Dr. Romeo Ong said during an earlier interview that possible MERS-CoV, the patient will be housed at the Ward 6 of ZCMC.

The DOH IX covers three provinces, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga Sibugay and five cities to include Zamboanga.

The DOH IX is managing a total of seven hospitals regionwide. For Zamboanga City, DOH is managing three hospitals, the Labuan Hospital, Mindanao Central Sanitarium, and the Zamboanga City Medical Center. 

By R.G. Antonet Go




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