HEALTH authorities have strengthened mechanisms to stop the Ebola virus from entering the Philippines, especially with the expected influx of Filipinos returning to the country for Christmas.
Malacañang on Saturday said the government continues to reinforce measures to keep the country free from the deadly virus in the wake of reports that a health worker in New York tested positive for Ebola. New York has a large concentration of Filipinos.
“The government is strengthening the country’s defense against Ebola virus,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a radio interview.
He added that there is a need to improve measures since thousands of Filipinos are expected to come home for Christmas.
“The President has always advocated for the strengthening of systems to ensure that we will have continued protection from the virus or that it will not spread here,” he said.
He added that all concerned government, particularly the Department of Health (DOH), are doing the necessary preparations and precautions to stop the entry of the disease.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd, for example, has instructed government agencies to prepare for the repatriation of Filipino peacekeepers from Africa, the hotbed of Ebola infections.
The Philippines has a contingent of peacekeepers in Liberia, one of the African countries with the highest number of infections.
A strict screening and quarantine system had also been readied for travelers suspected to be carrying the virus.
Arriving passengers having the symptoms of Ebola will be immediately quarantined to protect the rest of the population, Coloma said.
He said the government is ready to carry out an extensive contact tracing if someone who tested positive for the virus may have had prior exposure to other people before he or she was quarantined.
“We are strengthening all aspects, intensifying our readiness,” Coloma said.
The DOH earlier said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the country’s National Reference Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, is more prepared to respond to an Ebola threat.
“Having managed previous global public health emergencies, the RITM has become better-equipped with rapid detection technology, laboratory, hospital facilities, and trained personnel in responding to the threat of new infectious disease agents,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona said.
The RITM was in the forefront of global threats like the SARS Coronavirus in 2003, the Pandemic Influenza H1N1 and Ebola-Reston in 2009.
“To bolster its preparations, RITM, in coordination with the DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO), is set to conduct a comprehensive 3-day training course for healthcare professionals in the country,” he added.
The training course will include guidelines on infection prevention and control, clinical management and isolation, laboratory diagnosis, with demonstration and hands-on sessions to ensure the readiness of health care workers in government and private hospitals for the potential entry of the Ebola virus.
The training will be held on October 28 to 30 for DOH referral hospitals including Philippine General Hospital, AFP Medical Center and PNP General Hospital; and from November 4 to 6 for private hospitals in major Philippine cities; and November 11to 13 for local government units.