Cebu readies measure against swine flu virus

By CHRISTIAN WAKEFIELD, Cebu Gold Star Daily Reporter

AS the world gears up for the feared pandemic of swine flu virus, authorities in Cebu are doing their part to ensure immediate detection of virus carriers.

The Bureau of Quarantine, the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Health (DOH), have already mapped out plans to monitor the possible entry of the virus in Cebu, especially through the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the Cebu International Port.

Dr. Emmanuel Labella, Cebu quarantine officer, said the bureau is now strictly monitoring the entry of foreigners to Cebu, especially through the international ports of entries, as he assured the public that the government is doing its best to prevent the entry of virus carriers.

Labella said the country has already received the alert level 3 from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday, prompting the Bureau of Quarantine to order quarantine officers at the airport and the international port, to strictly monitor entry of foreigners.

“We will apply the same contingency plan we used during the onset of SARS, Ebola and Avian Flu viruses. We are ready for this and the Cebuanos should not worry,” Labella was quoted in a radio interview.

The Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center will be used as the primary hospital that will threat swine flu-infected persons, said Labella, as personnel of the said government hospital have already been trained to handle such situation.

DA director Ricardo Oblena for Region 7 also said that DA is closely monitoring the entry of livestock from swine flu-affected countries. The DOH-7 has also mapped out its contingency plan should the flu spread to Cebu.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III ordered Sunday the Bureau of Quarantine to screen passengers coming from the US for flu symptoms following the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico that has downed more than 1,300 individuals and killed 81 since April 13.

World Health Organization (WHO) authorities on Saturday warned that the flu strain has pandemic potential, which means it could infect people in large proportions across the globe.

National Epidemiology Center (NEC) director Dr. Eric Tayag said Duque has ordered the BQ to check US inbound passengers for flu symptoms that are similar to symptoms exhibited by persons infected with swine flu. These include fever, body pain, runny nose, cough, sore throat, and in confirmed swine flu cases, diarrhea. He said this is imperative since swine flu can spread through the air.

Aside from Mexico, cases of swine flu were also detected in Kansas City, Texas, California and in New York City. WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan ordered all WHO member-nations to step up their disease surveillance system and to report to WHO all cases of death that are suspected to be due to swine flu.

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