By Leilani S. Junio
MANILA, Oct. 28 (PNA) — The Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday that while it is not boasting about its readiness to face the threat posed by the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), it can assure the public that its line of defense and preparations against the infectious disease is in place.
“Actually, no country can really claim 100 percent that it and its health workers are ready for EVD. What we can commit right now is the country is in more upright condition now to deal with that challenge,” said Dr. Lyndon Lee-Suy, DOH spokesperson, during a media interview on the first day of the three-day specialized training for doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
The DOH-initiated training of the health workers, which is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), ends on Oct. 30.
The RITM is the country’s National Reference Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases.
Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona had earlier said that “Having managed previous global public health emergencies, the RITM has become better-equipped with rapid detection technology, laboratory, hospital facilities, and trained personnel in responding to the threat of new infectious disease agents.”
According to Dr. Lee-Suy, the DOH does not want to dwell too much about the criticism that DOH “is not really ready” in case of a possible outbreak of EVD in the country.
Lee-Suy said that saying “ready” is very subjective and anyone cannot really say it convincingly for there will always be some doubt on the part of certain sectors.
He cited that the series of trainings that the DOH has spearheaded with the support of WHO health experts through its country representative in the Philippines, Dr. Julie Hall, is a way to further strengthen the existing knowledge acquired by health workers in terms of preparing themselves for the actual scenario of dealing and handling potential EVD cases and other emerging infectious diseases.
He noted that with the WHO experts who have agreed to provide input based on their actual experiences that can be applied in case a potential EVD case happens here will help in reducing the fear or anxiety and prevent panic among the Filipino people.
The DOH spokesperson highlighted that what is very important at present is the public will understand what is EVD, how it is transmitted or acquired, the importance of communications, surveillance and monitoring to “fine tune” everything.
Meanwhile, the more than 100 healthcare trainees who come from the 22 regional government hospitals of DOH nationwide shared that they look forward to have better insights about EVD and what are the best practices that can be used as preparedness tools against it.
“This is very timely because right now, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) have a contingent from Liberia that will be coming home. Since we will be manning the quarantine team of the AFP, preferably the Air Force, it is therefore necessary for us to know more about the guidelines or procedures on detection, management and referral on EVD,” a health worker said.
RITM is one among the hospitals identified by DOH as highly capable in addressing the EVD for its capacity to test EVD using detection methods from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Its laboratory personnel are well-trained on bio-safety and bio-security.
The hospital earlier tested 18 samples from suspected EVD cases, all of which tested negative.
EVD is a viral hemorrhagic fever and one of the most virulent viral diseases known to humankind. The current EVD outbreaks in affected countries in West Africa have a case fatality rate of 50 to 60 percent.
Nigeria and Senegal have reported that they were able to control the spread of EVD there and such was attributed to proper information dissemination to the public
EVD can be transmitted through touching or close contact with blood secretions, organs or other bodily fluids, stools, vomit, sweat, spit, saliva and semen of infected animals and humans.
It can also be acquired from eating of meat of animals infected with EVD, especially if raw or not cooked.
It can also be transmitted through the exposure or handling of a person who died of EVD, touching contaminated needles and soiled linen used by infected patients, especially if the person who handled them had no protective gears.
The DOH earlier said that EVD cannot be transmitted through air, water or food.
Among the symptoms of EVD are fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains, and sore throat.
This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, impaired kidney and liver function and worst internal and external bleeding.
Sometimes the patient may experience rashes, having red eyes, hiccups and suffers bleeding from body openings.
The incubation period is two to 21 days.
The patient becomes contagious once he/she begins to show symptoms.
At present, there is no specific drugs that can cure EVD because the vaccines are still being developed and for clinical trial.
The DOH has said that in curing patients that will be detected with EVD, they will undertake the treatment through asymptomatic basis (treating the symptoms according to what the patient manifests).
The DOH also advised the public that to prevent getting EVD, it is best to avoid close contact with infected patients; avoid consumption of raw meat of possible infected animals like fruit bats, monkeys or apes; and most of all, wear gloves and personal protective equipment (PPEs) when taking care of ill patients at home and maintain hygiene or wash hands after visiting sick relatives in the hospital. (PNA)