By: Jet Villa, InterAksyon.com
June 17, 2015 5:46 PM
Health Secretary Janette Garin, seen in file photo at Senate hearing: timely reminder to all private hospitals. INTERAKSYON.COM
MANILA – While the Philippines remains free of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), its quick spread in other countries prompted the Department of Health Wednesday to remind all private hospitals anew to be always vigilant in all aspects of their operations, as they remain a key line of defense.
In a statement issued hours after South Korea reported its 20th fatality from MERS, Health Secretary Janette Garin highlighted the importance of “thorough history-taking and immediate reporting of suspected cases by private hospitals.”
Last week, DOH officials met with private hospital representatives to apprise them of government preparations and response to MERS, which began to spread to South Korea in May after afflicting hundreds in the Middle East.
As of June 16, the World Health Organization had been notified of 154 confirmed MERS cases in the Republic of Korea, including 19 deaths. That death toll rose to 20 on June 17.
WHO has recorded 1,321 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS infection globally since September 2012, including at least 466 related deaths.
The DOH asked the hospitals to closely watch over patients who may be manifesting MERS symptoms and, at the same time, have travelled to countries that have cases.
“Everyone has a significant role in fighting MERS. You are our allies,” Garin told the hospitals, even as measures were taken this week to beef up the defense against the disease at the country’s airports and seaports.
More thermal scanners were set up at airports, and the Bureau of Quarantine is requiring inbound passengers to fill up health information forms to enable the state agencies to do contact tracing in case any recent arrival comes down with MERS.
Earlier, Garin called on people to observe basic hygiene by, among others. regular hand washing with soap and water, proper cough manners, and using hand sanitizers.
Despite the continuous spread of the disease in Seoul, the DOH – heeding the recommendation of the World Health Organization – has refused to issue any travel restrictions. Labor officials have also not stopped the deployment of workers to South Korea.
The DOH noted that “the virus does not appear to pass easily from person to person, unless there is close contact with an infected person or provided unprotected care to an infected person.”
It pointed out that the transmission of the virus occurred mostly in healthcare facilities, such as what happened in Saudi Arabia, where Filipino health workers in hospitals have been constantly reminded to take precautions.
Still, said DOH, “travelers, whether tourists or migrant workers, should maintain a high level of vigilance, especially those coming from MERS-infected countries.”