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DoH issues travel tips vs swine flu

Posted on: May 7, 2009

DoH issues travel tips vs swine flu

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:15:00 05/07/2009

Filed Under: Swine Flu, Travel & Commuting, Health, Diseases

MANILA, Philippines—Health officials urged passengers arriving in the country to help in the fight against the new Influenza A (H1N1) virus by filling up health declaration checklists and reporting flu-like symptoms days after arrival to facilitate quarantine procedures.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that all travelers arriving in all local sea- and airports have to manifest via a health declaration checklist the countries visited for the past three weeks to determine if they came from areas with swine-flu outbreaks such as Mexico and the United States.

Duque urged travelers to report personally or contact the DoH hotline if they have flu-like symptoms over the past 10 days or after to facilitate their quarantine and treatment if necessary.

Symptoms to watch out for include fever, cough, headache, body weakness, diarrhea, difficulty in breathing, and sore throat, among others.

Director for National Epidemiology Center Dr. Eric Tayag noted that six of the 10 persons that were quarantined by the Health Department from May 1 to 6 voluntarily submitted themselves for observation over the next 10 days for possible swine flu infection after they experienced symptoms similar to flu.

Added Tayag: “It would be difficult for DoH if all the 10 persons did not submit themselves for observation and were just detected through port thermal scanners.”

“It is important for travelers to come to health agencies so they can be given proper treatment, whether they need to be quarantined, given medication or not,” said Tayag.

Tayag echoed the warning against self-medication of Tamiflu capsules for persons who have “undiagnosed symptoms” because this might cause the swine flu virus to mutate and gain resistance to Tamiflu medication.

Once a person is tested positive for swine flu infection that is only when he must be given Tamiflu medication—an intake of two 75 mg capsules daily, over five days.

At present, the DoH, private companies and the Government Insurance System have a stock of 1.17 milliion capsules. DoH plans to increase its current stock of 700,000 Tamiflu capsules to 1 million over the next week.

Duque outlined the procedures for travelers:

1. Upon arrival, a traveler must proceed to a quarantine counter for screening, fill up and submit accomplished health declaration checklist forms, and pass through a thermal scanner to detect fever.

If a person has no fever, he can go home or his destination but must observe and report to health authorities if he has flu-like symptoms for the next 10 days.

2. If upon arrival a person has fever, he must go to an attending physician for further screening to confirm temperature and review travel history.

If a person is negative for fever as diagnosed by the physician, he can go home or to his area of destination. He still has to observe and report to health authorities if he has flu-like symptoms for the next 10 days.

3. If the person is considered case under investigation, he will be referred to a hospital such as Research Institute for Tropical Medicine or San Vicente Hospital for quarantine and/or treatment.

The airborne cough droplets of an infected person who coughed or sneezed can transmit the swine flu virus to any person located within 6 meters and who inhaled the droplets, said Duque.

Touching or holding an object previously touched by an infected person and placing your hand to the nose is also another way of disease transmission because the virus affects the aerial passages of the body, said Duque.

Personal hygiene–including proper hand washing before eating and covering up the mouth with tissue when sneezing or coughing—is still the simplest way of disease prevention, said Duque.

If flu-like signs and symptoms develop within 10 days after arrival, persons must immediately contact DOH via landline at: (02) 711-1001, 711-1002, 743-1937 or via mobile phone at: (63) 917-7725621 and (63) 921-592-2361.

The World Health Organization said on its website that as of Wednesday, 22 countries have officially reported 1516 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection.

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