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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

 

DOH CONFIRMS COMMUNITY 
OUTBREAK OF FLU VIRUS

By Rommel C. Lontayao, Reporter

The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday confirmed the Philippines’ first case of a community outbreak of Influenza A(H1N1) after eight people in a village in Jaen, Nueva Ecija tested positive for the new virus strain.

Local executives in that province declared the outbreak in Barangay Hilera over the weekend, but health authorities were quick to point that all cases of infection were mild in nature.

“It’s an outbreak of mild A(H1N1) cases,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd, adding that the patients are all responding well to treatment.

Duque also announced that there were 46 more confirmed mild A(H1N1) cases over the weekend, and the total number of cases was now 193.

The Health department said all the new cases involved Filipinos: 27 females and 19 males, ages 9 years old to 47.

Cases in Bulacan

Meanwhile, the Health department also said that it received a new report that eight more cases have been confirmed but details of such cases are still being verified.

The Health department only disclosed that the eight new cases were from the Candelaria National High School in Candelaria, Bulacan.

The school suspended its classes last week after more than 50 students exhibited flu-like symptoms.

Kenneth Tirado, communication unit chief of the Education department, confirmed the suspension of classes in a high school in Bulacan.

He said there was no confirmation yet that the students were infected with A(H1N1), but classes were suspended for 10 days beginning June 11 because of the big number of students involved.

He added that the Department of Health was currently conducting mapping out operations, while school officials have taken precautions while the students were tested and quarantined at home.

Duque said he was bracing for the number of confirmed cases to rise, because more infected people were to be detected through contact tracing and because of the new community outbreak. But he added that he was glad to announce that the infections were not severe and many have already recovered from the disease.

He said 33 more A(H1N1) patients have been sent home over the weekend after recovering from the said illness. To date, the country has already 71 fully recovered cases.

Response guideline

Under the Influenza A(H1N1) Response Level System in Schools, which the Health department earlier issued, school administrators can announce the suspension of classes if there is already one or more confirmed case of the dreaded flu virus in the school or the community.

When there is already community transmission, the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) can announce closure of one or more schools in the affected area.

But Duque said this guideline may change.

He explained that it may no longer be necessary to close schools in case of a community transmission of the virus. He emphasized that suspension of classes would only be implemented if doing so could still help prevent the spread of the virus.

With the newly reported cases, Duque reiterated that not only school authorities but also barangay leaders and heads of offices, across the country should continue reporting to their respective local government executives any unusual occurrence of flu-like symptoms.

“This effort is part of the readiness of the DOH to shift from containment to mitigation,” he added.

Chairman Manny Angeles of the Commission on Higher Education also on Monday advised students with coughs and colds to put off their returning to schools. This way, they prevent contracting the A(H1N1), or they can help prevent its spread if their flu-like symptoms turn out to be the so-called swine flu.

Angeles added that this was part of the precautionary measures being implemented in schools today.

He said the Commission would let the school administrators decide on suspending classes, if a student gets A(H1N1).

One school in Marikina City, Metro Manila, did just that on Monday. The Our Lady of Perpetual College in Barangay Concepcion suspended classes until June 26 after a student showed flu-like symptoms. No additional details were disclosed as of press time.

With James Konstantin Galvez And Francis Earl A. Cueto

   

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