Vice President Jejomar Binay on Tuesday urged the Department of Health (DOH) to institute preventive measures to minimize the risk of the Ebola virus spreading in the country.
“We need to provide adequate isolation and hydration facilities and protective wear for our health workers. At the same time, we need to roll out an intensive information campaign that will educate the people on this issue, to eliminate both panic and complacency,” he said in a statement.
“We will also require adequate screening and tracking at our ports of entry, especially for our overseas Filipino workers [OFWs] coming from Africa,” the Vice President added.
Binay, also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, noted that as one of the world’s leading labor-exporting countries, the Philippines will be more vulnerable than most to a massive outbreak of the Ebola virus.
“We need to anticipate any eventuality with regard to this virus reaching our own shores,” he said.
“I also call on our embassies in areas abroad already affected by the virus to take the proper steps in ensuring the safety of our fellow Filipinos,” Binay added.
The Vice President said the group Doctors without Borders already warned that the crisis is “out of control” and that there is no strategy existing to handle the disease.
“Given the disease’s 60 percent death rate and the extreme ease with which one can get infected with it, this is, if anything, a time to err on the side of caution. If it continues to spread, no other disease we have faced before would be as dangerous as this,” he added.
Health authorities confirmed that seven of the 15 OFWs who returned last month from Sierra Leone, one of four African countries severely affected by the outbreak, have tested negative for the virus.
The ongoing 2014 West African Ebola outbreak is the worst in the recorded history of the virus, with 729 reported fatalities in 909 confirmed cases as of July 31.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) raised alert level 2, or restriction phase, in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Under the advisory, Filipinos “are instructed to restrict non-essential movements, avoid public places and take extra precaution.”
There are about 880 Filipinos in Guinea, 632 in Liberia (including 148 United Nations Filipino peacekeepers) and 1,979 in Sierra Leone.
Ebola virus is a severe and often fatal illness in humans. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has a case fatality rate of 90 percent, with occurrence highest in remote villages in Central Africa and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals, and it spreads through human-to-human transmission.
“Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals,” the WHO said.
Symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This list is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function.
In some cases, people inflicted with the Ebola virus can suffer from both external and internal bleeding.
The incubation period, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is between two and 21 days.