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Ecija resident H1N1 positive; 19 more tested

By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 11:55:00 06/12/2009

Filed Under: Swine Flu, Health, Education

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The Department of Health has taken throat swabs from 19 more residents of Barangay (village) Hilera in Jaen, Nueva Ecija for suspected A(H1N1) infection, an official said.

This brings to 34 the number of people under observation in that village where one has tested positive, said Doctor Rio Magpantay, DOH director in Central Luzon.

Magpantay said the second batch consisted of students and adults.

The results of the rest from the first batch of 15 would be announced later Friday in Manila by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, said Magpantay.

The first positive case so far from that first batch was an 11-year-old boy.

Magpantay said the boy spent his vacation in Bulacan. His contacts in recent weeks are being traced.

Latest contact tracing showed that none of those from the first and second batches had traveled to any H1N1 infected country, Magpantay said.

In light of this, health authorities are trying to establish if the exposure originated from any member of a team that conducted a medical mission at the Hilera Elementary School last May 31.

DOH personnel are trying to locate the group known only as Palanghay, he said.

Before the regional DOH actively intervened last week, Jaen Mayor Santi Austria cancelled classes at the Hilera Elementary School for two weeks as 22 students were taken ill with fever.

The provincial health officer, Dr. Benjamin Lopez, said the ailment was "ordinary flu."

Last week, 53 students in the same school and four other residents of the village showed what Magpantay called influenza-like symptoms.

While not yet declaring a community-level outbreak, the DOH set up a command post in Barangay Hilera.

"Since the residents are not showing serious symptoms, we're operating from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.," Magpantay said.

About 20 health personnel from the DOH regional office, provincial health office, local health office and the Paulino J. Garcia Hospital are helping in "early detection and aggressive medication" among villagers.

Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio Umali said the provincial and local governments have prepared the support network for DOH's pro-active approach in containing the spread of the virus ahead of the Jaen situation.

"The program is proving to be successful because it is the DOH that is on the lead. We [in the LGUs] heeded DOH's advice not to be visible so as not to confuse the people. I'm very confident that the DOH is doing quite a job here," Umali said.

He said the DOH has allowed Hilera villagers to freely move around.

"But they are also advised that if they don't have important things to do outside, they are encouraged to stay home and to also report at once the symptoms they observe in their bodies and of their family members," Umali said.

Dr. Mario Ramirez, director of the Department of Education in Central Luzon, said the reopening of classes in Hilera Elementary School would depend on the advice of the DOH.

"It can go less or beyond 10 days," Ramirez said. "What is important is public health."

Copyright 2009 Central Luzon Desk. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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