Research institute prepared to battle Ebola virus—DOH

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The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the country’s National Reference Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, is now more prepared to respond to threat of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the Department of Health (DOH) said on Tuesday.

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“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,” according to Health Secretary Enrique Ona.

Ona, however, said existing facilities still need to be upgraded to be able to handle diseases like Ebola.

According to the DOH, the RITM previously was in the forefront of global threats such as the SARS Coronavirus in 2003, the Pandemic Influenza H1N1 and Ebola-Reston in 2009.

As part of the DOH’s role for the possible entry of EVD in the country, RITM has developed a triage system (or the assignment of degrees of urgency to illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties) for suspected cases of EVD. Patient screening and evaluation as well as infection control practices are in place. First-line health workers in the management of cases are being trained in the donning and removing of personal protective equipment (PPE). Adequate supply of PPE is available.

RITM is upgrading DOH’s major laboratory hospitals from Biosafety Level (BSL) 2 to BSL 3 or 4 for the detection, treatment and containment of potentially high-risk infectious agents.

It primarily uses molecular detection methods that ensure sensitive and rapid diagnosis. In addition, its Special Pathogens Laboratory is capable of performing the currently recommended diagnostic tests for Ebola. Its hospital facility has eight negative-pressure isolation rooms, which prevent the spread of infectious agents from cases.

“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,” Ona said.

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