Foreign embassies in PHL briefed on government's response and preparedness in dealing with emerging infectious diseases (Philippines News Agency)

The World Health Organization (WHO), together with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), conducted a joint health briefing on Tuesday for foreign embassies in the country on the government’s response and preparedness in dealing with emerging infectious diseases.
According to Dr. Julie Hall, WHO country representative in the Philippines, the session aimed to highlight current and future activities of WHO, the DOH and the DFA in ensuring health protection against emerging infectious diseases like the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), (Middle East Respiratory SyndromeCorona Virus (MERSCoV), Bird Flu or Avian Influenza and others.
“Having the right information and the right level of awareness is extremely important both to the public and the Philippines and the international media,” Dr. Hall stressed during the briefing held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati City.
Acting DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin shared during the session the challenges met and efforts exerted by the DOH in the prevention of EVD, the recent control of the possible local transmission of MERSCoV and the case of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who returned home from China sick with avian influenza or bird flu and died last Feb. 14.
Dr. Garin also cited the preparations made by the DOH, with the assistance of WHO, in providing training among Filipino health workers last year to ensure that local transmission of EVD will be prevented.
She said that the measures taken by the DOH, like readiness of its specialized hospitals for emerging diseases as well as the regular briefings conducted among media partners, helped prevent panic among the people due to wrong information about infectious diseases.
Dr. Hall noted that the response and preparedness efforts taken by the Philippine government in responding to infectious disease are vital in the prevention of possible emergence of infectious diseases in the country.
For his part, DFA Assistant Secretary Jesus Domingo said that the government, through the DOH, the DFA and the WHO, is continuously taking efforts aimed at preventing the entry of EVD, MERSCoV and other infectious diseases.
In the case of the 32yearold Filipina nurse who arrived sick with MERSCoV from Saudi Arabia earlier this month, Dr. Garin cited the importance of sharing vital information and early detection of the disease by health experts.
The nurse was recently cleared of MERSCoV after she was treated at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), one of the DOH’s specialized hospitals for emerging infectious diseases.
The acting Health chief said it helped a lot that doctors in a local hospital where the nurse initially sought consultation were alert in knowing the vital information on the patient, aside from analysis of the symptoms and test results.
The said the hospital immediately referred the patient to undergo further test at the DOH specialized facility.
“If we had this patient who had this virus (MERSCoV) and was taken care of by health workers who were not trained, then the situation might have run out of control” the DOH chief said.
She added that as of now, the DOH is working closely with the DFA in the conduct of information on the proper filling up of the health declaration checklist for returning OFWs.
She stressed it is very important to indicate travel history and the kind of occupation of an arriving traveller for easy contacttracing in case there is a need for such so that early diagnosis plus treatment can be immediately given. (PNA)