2 more wedding guests in Zambales get A(H1N1)
MANILA, Philippines—It was one wedding that, on hindsight, they probably should have skipped.
The number of confirmed cases of influenza A(H1N1)—more commonly known as swine flu—in the country has climbed to 14 as the Department of Health reported four more cases Friday, eight days after the first case was confirmed.
Worldwide, the number of cases has soared past 15,000 with the number of deaths nearing 100.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said two of the new cases in the Philippines—a 42-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man—were at a May 17 wedding in Zambales attended by a Taiwanese mother and her daughter, who were later found carrying the virus upon their return to Taipei.
That means eight of the 14 confirmed cases were people at the wedding, according to the Department of Health. The DoH previously said there were about 50 people at the wedding.
The rest of the confirmed cases in the country had traveled abroad, including two of the new cases: a 7-year-old girl and a 19-year-old woman who had returned from travel in the United States.
Thirteen of the 14 confirmed cases are Filipinos, including the four new ones, according to the DoH.
Duque said all the 14 confirmed cases had shown “relatively mild symptoms and all are responding positively to treatment” with the anti-viral drug oseltamivir in health facilities.
He said the DoH was getting more reports of suspected cases from hospitals.
The World Health Organization says its global tally of swine flu cases has increased to 15,510 and that the disease has now been reported in 53 countries around the world.
The global body says there have been 99 deaths linked to swine flu.
Philippine authorities anticipate the number of confirmed cases to increase, as in other countries, due to the relative ease of transmission (from respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes) and unrestricted international travel.
‘Dengue more fatal’
“There should not be any cause of alarm,” Duque stressed.
“The most important thing is that we still do not have any severe case or any death,” he said. “There is no indication that there is already sustained community transmission in the Philippines.”
Duque said while the A(H1N1) was a novel flu virus, “most of the cases are mild and self-limiting.” The global case fatality ratio is less than 1 per cent, or less than one death per 1,000 cases.
“Dengue is even more fatal. We now have 57 deaths [from dengue] as of April this year,” he said
Up and about
One of the confirmed cases announced by the DoH Friday—the man—had been confined at home and results of monitoring showed he was “up and about,” said Dr. Myrna Cabotaje, DoH regional director in the Cordillera.
The DoH Cordillera has been monitoring 14 patients for symptoms of swine flu, Cabotaje said. Only one is confined in a health facility. The others have been advised to stay at home under DoH monitoring after they showed mild symptoms, like cough and fever.
The DoH confirmed its first case last May 21, a 10-year-old Filipino girl who traveled with her parents to the United States and Canada. She was discharged from the hospital on May 28.
Despite anticipating more confirmed cases in the coming days, Duque said there was no need to postpone the start of classes on June 1.
He announced the DoH might shift its control strategy from hospitalization of both suspected and confirmed cases, to outpatient and home management of mild cases.
“Hospitals will still register each case and will treat patients with such complications. As I’ve said, the virus is self-limiting so the patient can just stay at home, have bed rest and drink fluids, including vitamins,” Duque said.
High-risk groups—or those with pre-existing illness like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and immunodeficiencies—were advised to immediately seek medical treatment if they manifest flu-like symptoms.
The DoH has advised the public to exercise preventive health measures, such as frequent hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, social distancing and proper hygienic practices.
Those who manifest flu symptoms, such as fever, sore throat or coughing, after having recently traveled abroad or having come into contact with an A(H1N1) virus carrier, should see a doctor or call the DoH hotline 711-1001, Duque said.
Those who have flu-like symptoms but have not traveled abroad or have not come into contact with a confirmed case should stay home, take supportive treatment, drink plenty of liquids and get adequate bed rest, he said. If symptoms persist or worsen, they should immediately see a doctor.
Worries across Asia
Elsewhere, swine flu worries spread in Asia Friday as the virus appeared to spread from crew to passengers on a cruise ship off Australia, and China reported its first suspected case of local transmission.
The 2,000-passenger ship Pacific Dawn was diverted to a port in Queensland after the liner’s owner said up to five passengers were suspected of being infected after an outbreak among the crew. The five will be tested.
The same ship was on a South Pacific cruise last week in which dozens of passengers were infected.
Australia’s count of confirmed cases jumped by 20 on Friday to 167.
First local transmission
China said it suspects the virus had been transmitted within the country for the first time.
A 24-year-old woman in the southern city of Guangzhou tested positive after developing a fever, the Chinese Health Ministry said on its website.
Before the latest case, there had been 13 confirmed cases of swine flu in mainland China. All caught the flu overseas.
Singapore’s health ministry said three more people had contracted swine flu, a day after announcing the country’s first case. With reports from Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse