7 Pinoys from Sierra Leone under close watch for Ebola

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Friday, August 1, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- Seven out the 15 Filipinos who arrived home from Sierra Leone have been placed under close watch for possible symptoms of the deadly virus Ebola, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.

"Currently, only seven remain under close daily monitoring by DOH-HEMS (Health Emergency Management Staff) of possible symptoms while the rest are already cleared," said DOH spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy.

The 15 Filipinos arrived in the country between June 26 and July 15. They arrived in several batches, and at least three initially manifested fever symptoms but were eventually tested negative for Ebola virus.

"Their cases were immediately called to our regional officers, and we brought them to the nearest hospitals while their specimens were transmitted to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine," said the health official.

Suy said even the families of the newly returned Filipinos have also been placed under close watch by the DOH.

Earlier, crisis alert level 2 was raised by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia due to the spread of the deadly disease.

On Thursday, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma declared a state of public emergency amid the worsening Ebola outbreak in the country.

For the moment, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the Philippines remains to be free from the dreaded virus, and that they intend to keep the country insulated from it.

"The Philippines is still Ebola-free but the country is not letting its guard down on the possible entry of any emerging infectious disease (EID)," assured Ona in a statement.

He said the health department already has a standard operating procedure (SOP) along with the DFA, Department of Labor and Employment and the Bureau of Immigration on how to ensure the country is not penetrated by the Ebola virus.

First, Ona noted, is by strictly urging any returning Filipino manifesting fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains and sore throat to seek clearance with local health authorities from the country of employment before returning home.

Once repatriated, he said, the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) will determine the status of returning Filipinos upon arrival and refer symptomatic cases to the appropriate health facilities for clinical care with asymptomatic individuals to be closely monitored daily by the HEMS.

Ona added that regional health officials have been placed on standby to facilitate the conduct and admission of possible suspected cases to the nearest DOH hospitals or medical centers.

Ebola is a severe, infectious, often fatal disease common in humans and primates, such as monkeys, gorillas and chimpanzees. It can be transmitted through close contact with blood secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals, body fluids and stools of an infected person, through contaminated needles and soiled linen used by infected patients, or direct contact with the body of a deceased person.

The DOH said the most-at-risk individuals to contract Ebola infection are health care workers and laboratory workers, who may be exposed to secretions and specimens from infected individuals, as well as family members and those in close contact with those who are sick.

Signs and symptoms of infection with Ebola virus include fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains and sore throat. These are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

Other symptoms may include rash, red eyes, hiccups, and bleeding from body openings.

The DOH advised those experiencing these symptoms to seek immediate medical attention, as severe cases require intensive supportive care and there is no specific treatment or vaccine yet available.

Ona said the Ebola virus can be prevented through avoiding close contact with infected patients; avoiding consumption of the raw meat of possible infected animals like fruit bats, monkeys or apes; wearing gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment when taking care of ill patients at home; and washing hands after visiting sick relatives in the hospital and after taking care of ill patients at home.

As of July 27, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a total of 1,201 Ebola cases, including 672 deaths, coming from the three affected West African countries. (Sunnex)

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