DOH confirms third polio case in Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   October 28, 2019   •   266

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday confirmed the third polio case in the country.

According to DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, the third case is a four-year old female from Datu Piang town in Maguindanao who did not receive any dose of the oral polio vaccine.

The girl was initially reported as a case of acute flaccid paralysis in September after seeking consultation at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center following bouts of fever, diarrhea, vomiting and muscle pain.

Stool samples sent to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan revealed the girl tested positive for vaccine-derived poliovirus 2, Duque said.

He added the isolated virus has been genetically linked to the virus from the first confirmed case in Morogong, Lanao del Sur.

The health official further stated it is awaiting results of samples it sent from another suspected polio case.

The first case was a three-year old girl from Lanao del Sur while the second case was a five-year old boy from Laguna. The disease re-emerged 19 years after the country was declared polio-free.

In response, Duque said the DOH will conduct a vaccination campaign in Datu Piang from November 4 to 8 for 4,254 children aged zero to 59 months.

The DOH, along with the World Health Organization, and United Nations Children’s Fund are also set to meet with local officials of Datu Piang on October 28 to 29 to discuss the outbreak response.

“I enjoin all parents and guardians, to ensure that all of your children are protected from all vaccine-preventable diseases,” Duque said.

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More possible cases of polio being monitored in PH – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   November 22, 2019

A Filipino baby receives a polio vaccine inside a government-run health center in Manila, Philippines, 08 October 2019 (issued 11 October 2019). EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) said it is monitoring more possible cases of polio in the country following recent cases of children who tested positive for poliovirus in Mindanao.

The DOH said there are still other cases awaiting confirmation from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they recorded more cases in the past months because the agency is actively conducting surveillance of suspected polio cases.

On Wednesday, Nov. 21, the DOH confirmed three new cases of polio in children under five years old from Mindanao, bringing to seven the total number of polio cases in the country this year.

In September, the department confirmed the re-emergence of the disease in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free by the World Health Organization.

The DOH said it is set to begin a new round of synchronized oral polio vaccine campaign for the whole of Mindanao, as well as in the National Capital Region (NCR) from Nov. 25 to Dec. 7 this year.

A polio immunization campaign will also be conducted in Mindanao from Jan. 6 to 18, 2020.

The department said the campaign’s “Patak Polio Corners” will be set up in selected McDonald’s stores in Metro Manila and in Mindanao after IT forged a partnership on Thursday, Nov. 21.

“We are relentless in making this health service accessible and available to all, consistent with our goal of Universal Health Care,” Duque said in a separate statement.

The Sabayang Patak Kontra Polio campaign aims to vaccinate all children below 5 years old regardless of Polio vaccination status, the DOH added.

According to the agency, the initial round of the synchronized polio vaccination reported 96% coverage among children 0 to 59 months old from the 17 cities/municipality in NCR.

Davao del Sur recorded 92% coverage from its 10 cities/municipalities while Lanao del Sur reported 85% coverage from 40 cities/municipalities.  

Hontiveros urges DOH to name pharma firms blocking move for cheaper medicines

Robie de Guzman   •   November 20, 2019

Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros urges the Department of Health (DOH) to identify the pharmaceutical firms that are reportedly blocking the move to lower the price of medicines.

“Nanawagan ako sa DOH na pangalanan ang mga pharmaceutical companies na mas inuuna pa ang kanilang malalaking tubo at kita kaysa sa buhay at kalusugan ng mamamayan. Sa panahon na kaliwa’t kanan ang epidemiya at mga nagkakasakit, ang presyo ng gamot ay hindi dapat dagdag-pasakit,” Hontiveros said during the Senate plenary deliberation of DOH’s budget for 2020 on Tuesday night.

She said there is reportedly a strong lobby from several pharmaceutical companies opposing the proposed use of government’s regulatory powers under the Republic Act 9502 or the Cheaper Medicines Act to lower the “unfair and anti-poor” prices of much-needed medicines nationwide.

The DOH earlier listed around 120 high-cost medicines that will be recommended for price reduction under a maximum drug retail price (MDRP) scheme.

These medicines particularly treat leading diseases and conditions including diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases and different types of cancers.

“While I welcome the willingness of pharmaceutical companies to work towards improving the country’s healthcare system, I would like to remind them that it is the exorbitant prices of medicines charged in both public and private sectors which have undermined the effective delivery of health services, to the detriment of poor and even middle-class families,” Hontiveros said.

She also maintained that prices of medicines in the Philippines “remain high,” and “out of reach” of the majority of Filipinos.

Hontiveros cited a study commissioned by the DOH which states that the medicine prices in the country are still significantly higher than the international reference prices.

DOH, UNICEF urge LGUs to prioritize sanitation

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 20, 2019

The Department of Health and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) urge local government units in the country to prioritize sanitation.

With this, the DOH launched the Philippine Approach to Sustainable Sanitation (PhATSS) policy in Baseco, Tondo, Manila in celebration of World Toilet Day (WTD) on November 19.

DOH Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that using a toilet as well as the practice of handwashing with soap after using the toilet and before eating helps prevent the transmission of polio, among other diseases.

“DOH is reminding the public to practice good hygiene and urging the Local Government Units (LGUs) through the aid of DOH Centers for Health Development (CHDs) to intensify their Zero Open Defecation Program,” he said.

The PhATSS policy cites new sanitation targets for all barangays across the Philippines to achieve Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) status by 2025. 

“Using the PhATSS policy, LGUs are guided on how to track the sanitation situation of each community and take supportive action to ensure that no one is left behind without access to a sanitary toilet,” according to the DOH.

The health department also said that there are currently only 11% of barangays (only 4625 out of a total 42,045) are certified ZOD, where people have abandoned the practice of open defecation.

UNICEF Deputy Representative Julia Rees said UNICEF provides technical assistance to DOH in scaling up sanitation programs.

“The effect of proper sanitation on health, nutrition, education, and security of Filipino children and women is paramount. It’s about time to look at addressing the sanitation needs of people in urban slums, in remote and geographically isolated areas, and in indigenous communities for a healthier, more progressive Philippines, and to ensure that no one is left behind,” she said.—AAC

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