3 quarantined in Cebu for possible swine flu

CEBU, Philippines - Three persons are currently quarantined in Cebu for possibly being infected with the swine flu or influenza A(H1N1) virus.

A Cebuano couple and a British woman are currently quarantined at one of the isolation rooms of Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) for verification of A(H1N1).

The couple who traveled from Ireland to Hong Kong arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport on Cathay Pacific flight CX921 and was intercepted at noon yesterday after thermal scanning at the airport showed the man running a fever.

The husband is 32 while the wife is 30 years old. They were seated together on the plane so the wife was also quarantined as a precautionary measure though she did not show any symptoms.

The British woman, on the other hand, admitted visiting Mexico and Hong Kong where cases of swine flu have been reported.

She had been in Cebu for a week before she voluntarily showed up at the VSMMC hospital last Monday because she suspected she had the virus.

The British woman, 25 years or older, has reportedly developed a cough and cold but has no sign of fever.

Department of Health (DOH) Central Visayas Regional Director Dr. Susana Madarieta said that the foreigner’s case is nearly impossible because the patient has already exceeded the incubation period.

Madarieta said the virus spreads until a maximum of ten days. Since the first patient confined only developed cough and colds on her eighth day in the country, she might probably be found negative. But they are still awaiting the results which will arrive in two to three days.

VSMMC Infectious Disease Section Dr. Ma. Consuelo Malaga denied the DOH report that they have suspected patients who may be positive for A(H1N1).

“Categorically, we don’t have any suspected case right now but we may have cases under investigation. These are people who may want to determine if they have the virus,” Malaga said.

She said persons considered suspect are those who have showed symptoms that fit the profile. She stressed there is no one at the moment with such symptoms.

The couple who arrived yesterday are still under investigation and are not considered suspects since there are other causes of fever.

But for possible outbreaks, Malaga said that VSMMC, a DOH-identified referral hospital to accommodate A(H1N1) patients, is prepared and ready.

Malaga said that VSMMC has a system in place. The protocol created during the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) will be reactivated. There will be designated rooms and wards that may be used as isolation rooms.

Bureau of Quarantine Regional Director Emmanuel Labella said that the two were brought to the hospital after the husband was detected with fever.

But Labella clarified that the two were sent to hospital because this was the protocol for passengers with symptoms. He said that they are not suspected carriers of the flu.

The husband reportedly told the quarantine team in the airport that he was feeling fine when they were still in Ireland and that his fever started on the connecting flight to Cebu.

The alarm sounded when he passed the thermal scanner, prompting airport personnel to bring him to the quarantine section.

The quarantine team checked the patients’ temperatures again after calling in the ambulance of the Bureau of Quarantine, which brought them to VSMMC.

Labella also explained that only the husband is suffering from fever.

Labella said that the samples taken from the patients were already sent to the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine in Manila. The results will come out after 24 hours.

Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit Head Renan Cimafranca said that as soon as they have the results, they will immediately inform the public.

Cimafranca said that as for the female British national, she is being tested due to some symptoms that she had and considering that she has a history of visiting Mexico.

Department of Health Regional Director Susana Madarieta said that despite the reports, the Philippines is still influenza A(H1N1)-free.

Madarieta also said that they have already activated the Barangay Response Team wherein barangay officials would closely monitor anyone coming from other countries who enter their respective areas of responsibility.

Earlier, a teen-age girl from Switzerland and an 80-year-old man from San Francisco were examined at the RITM but Tayag said the two were found negative for the virus after a thorough examination.

Meanwhile, the DOH is hoping to receive today a primer from Atlanta-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) that will guide the country in examining individuals suspected of having the A(H1N1) virus.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said that with the primer, the Philippines would no longer have to send samples abroad in efforts to prevent and control the virus.

“The primer contains genomic sequence standards (of A[H1N1] flu) with which our local viruses will be compared. It will let us know immediately if a certain virus (is A[H1N1]),” he noted in a telephone interview.

Duque said the DOH’s RITM in Alabang is equipped with polymerase chain reaction device that could be used to examine samples. Duque has assured the public that the Philippines remains A(H1N1)-free and preventive measures are all in place to keep the virus at bay.

No resetting of opening of classes

The Department of Education (DepEd) said there are no plans yet to reset the opening of classes in order to lay out infection control plans in schools all over the country in the light of the feared A(H1N1) virus pandemic gripping the world.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said they have not received any advisory from the DOH regarding any infection control efforts in schools and thus, he said there are no formal plans yet to move the scheduled opening of classes. Classes for school year 2009-2010 in public schools will open on June 1.

He said they would need national consultation and policy information campaign on hygiene, similar to what they teach in the DepEd Essential Health Care Program, particularly on the need to frequently wash hands with soap to avoid contamination.

Lapus said this in reaction to the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center (NEC) director Dr. Eric Tayag’s announcement the other day that resetting the school opening this June was an option while they are monitoring developments on the A(H1N1) virus.

Tayag said it was possible to delay the school opening since the DOH would start coordinating with the DepEd to map out preparations and readiness measures necessary to set up an infection control plan in schools throughout the country.

But Tayag said they are still waiting for events to unfold.

Meanwhile, a popular website said Tamiflu, one of the antiviral drugs prescribed to treat the A(H1N1) virus was “useless against the avian flu and many other flus” and possibly even the A(H1N1) virus.

www.WantToKnow.info cited European experts who tested antiviral medications in 2006 and concluded that Tamiflu could not cure avian flu and many other flus.

Tamiflu was recommended by the US CDC to treat cases of A(H1N1) virus and avian flu a few years ago.

The website questioned why the CDC prescribed Tamiflu to treat A(H1N1) when there was not enough research showing that it is indeed effective.

Source: www.philstar.com


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