Speaker Prospero Nograles on Tuesday ordered the suspension of work
in the House of Representatives after one of its employees infected
with Influenza A(H1N1) virus died.
The woman’s death was reported Monday, but the
fact that she worked for Congress only became known Tuesday. Health
officials were unsure if the flu virus killed the 49-year-old woman,
who also suffered from heart and liver disease.
From Brazil, President Gloria Arroyo called on
the public and private health sectors to team up in the fight
against the virus after she was informed of the first
A(H1N1)-related death in the Philippines.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said during an
overseas radio interview also on Tuesday that President Arroyo
reiterated her order to the Department of Health (DOH) and other
concerned agencies to do everything possible to protect the people
from the virus.
Remonde is with the President, who is in Brazil
on a state visit upon the invitation of Brazilian President Luis
Inacio Lula de Silva.
Another House employee had tested positive for
the virus, a doctor-administrator from the chamber confirmed also on
More cases confirmed
A day after confirming the country’s first
flu-related death, health authorities reported 28 more cases of
confirmed Influenza A(H1N1) infection —16 males and 12 females
with ages ranging from seven months to 49 years, all Filipinos with
no history of travel to any infected country.
The authorities did not say if the new cases
included that confirmed by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) or
that also confirmed by all-girls Colegio de Santa Rosa-Makati in
Makati City. The school will suspend its classes starting today to
prevent the spread of the A(H1N1) virus among its 800 students.
In its medical bulletin, the central bank’s
Medical and Dental Clinic advised that one employee manifested
flu-like illness last week and was told to seek further medical
attention in a hospital accredited by the Health department. Also on
Tuesday, it said that the infected employee’s fever was gone, but
he was urged to stay home while continuing to take medications.
Unlike the central bank, another government
arm—the military—remains free from the A(H1N1) virus, according
to Romeo Brawner, Public Information Office chief.
Mostly mild cases
Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said that
the 28 new cases, like the previous ones, are all mild in nature.
There are now 473 confirmed A(H1N1) cases in the
Philippines. At least 400 of these had fully recovered also as of
Tuesday, the Health department said.
“Twenty-six A(H1N1) patients have fully
recovered,” Duque said. “The total count of those who have fully
recovered [is now] 400. This figure represents 85 percent of all the
confirmed cases reported since May 21.”
The World Health Organization has reported
52,160 cases, with 231 deaths from 94 reporting countries.
Closed until Sunday
Nograles said that the closure of the Batasang
Pambansa complex, or the House compound in Quezon City, will last
until June 28, to allow safety and preventive measures to be
The Health department is now helping the House
of Representatives sanitize its offices.
The Speaker’s order came one day after the
Department of Health announced that a 49-year-old woman who tested
positive for A(H1N1) flu died of heart disease on June 19.
“The latest reported casualty is one of our
employees,” Nograles said in a statement. “Our medical services
will spearhead all the necessary precautionary steps needed to
eliminate further health hazards. These [steps] include the
necessary contact tracing of possible victims and their families.”
About 3,000 employees of the House have been
receiving free flu vaccination since Monday, and it could be
extended to members of their families by next week, the statement
Dr. Ramon Ricardo Roque, the deputy secretary
general for administration of the House of Representatives, also on
Tuesday confirmed before frightened employees that the 49-year-old
victim was a staff of the House Committee on People’s
Roque also confirmed that another employee has
tested positive for A(H1N1), further shocking the employees.
“We have two positive cases of Influenza A
virus, the one [where the woman patient] died as reported in the
media and [the other] a male from the Congressional Planning and
Budget Department. Ipagdasal po natin ang kasamahan nating namatay
[Let’s pray for our colleague who had passed away],” he told
employees who were given vaccination for the regular flu.
Roque said that the female victim attended a
seminar organized by the Committee Affairs Department on June 15 and
16. He added that the woman stayed in Kalinga province from June 11
to 14. The male employee had gone to Malacañang before he tested
positive for A(H1N1). He is “now doing well” at home, Roque
According to him, they are allowing House
employees to impose self-quarantine, particularly those who had
direct contact with the woman who had died and the man from the
planning and budget department. Roque appealed to the media not to
reveal the names of the two victims.
On Tuesday morning, employees slightly panicked
when they were asked by their immediate superiors to vacate the
Ramon Mitra Building, a part of the Batasang Pambansa complex.
The Senate is mulling vaccination of its
employees as a precautionary measure against the A(H1N1) virus.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, reacting to
reports on the death of the House employee, also on Tuesday said he
would ask the doctor of the Senate to determine whether there was a
need to vaccinate the Senate employees.
Enrile added that senators who are abroad must
impose a self-quarantine for three days after their arrival. He
clarified that these senators would have to confine themselves only
if the came from countries where there are incidents of A(H1N1)
Lawmakers also on Tuesday lashed at hospitals
that allegedly have been refusing to take in patients suspected of
having contracted swine flu and demanded the revocation of their
licenses and PhilHealth insurance payments.
Rep. Arthur Pingoy Jr. of South Cotabato said
that shooing away suspected A(H1N1) cases was a clear violation of
current laws on the admission of any patient or individual seeking
treatment or any needed medical care from any healthcare facility.
Rep. Marcelino Teodoro of Marikina City (Metro
Manila), said hospitals that turn away A(H1N1) patients should not
only be given warnings of losing their licenses and PhilHealth
payments, but should be investigated as well and if proved guilty
must be closed down immediately.
The first flu victim was said to have worked
under Teodoro, the chairman of the House Committee on People’s
Lawyer and Rep. Ulpiano Sarmiento 3rd of
A-TEACHER party-list said the Health department has the power to
actually compel hospitals to admit suspected A (H1N1) cases in the
exercise of the police power of the state.
Also, a day after it confirmed the
Philippines’ first “swine” flu-related death, the Health
department said that it would improve dissemination of information
about Influenza A(H1N1) to the public through partnership with the
Duque announced the support of SMART
Communications Inc. for the government’s continuing efforts to
fight Influenza A(H1N1).
SMART unveiled its Health Watch Hotline 155,
which can be used by the public to access the latest information and
updates on the novel flu virus.
According to SMART’s public affairs group head
Ramon Isberto, the hotline would be available starting today from
Mondays to Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) will
use its community-based information dissemination through Red Cross
143 to raise public awareness on A(H1N1).
At 5 a.m. today, Red Cross officials, staff and
volunteers will be at the Commonwealth Elementary School in Quezon
City to launch the Red Cross 143 Influenza A(H1N1) prevention
Red Cross volunteers and staff will be joined
today by artists Erik Santos, Toni Gonzaga, Yeng Constantino and
Nyoy Volante, also advocates of KASAMA KA!, in the information
KASAMA KA! is an online community campaign that
aims to encourage people to log on to an online community to give
names and contact numbers of at least five people whom they have
taught A(H1N1) prevention.
-- Rommel C. Lontayao, Jomar Canlas, Efren L. Danao, Maricel E.
Burgonio, Angelo S. Samonte, Cris G. Odronia, Jefferson Antiporda,
Frank Lloyd Tiongson And Xinhua