DOH probing emerging cases of diphtheria, other infectious diseases in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   September 25, 2019   •   493

MANILA, Philippines – Apart from polio, cases of other infectious diseases such as diphtheria have also emerged in some parts of the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

In a statement issued on Wednesday (Sept. 25), the DOH reported that its Epidemiology Bureau recorded 167 cases with 40 deaths from January to September this year.

This is higher compared to 122 cases and 30 deaths recorded in the same period in 2018.

“The reasons for the trend are being investigated,” the DOH said.

It, however, clarified that the number of cases is not yet considered alarming.

Diphtheria is a bacterial infection affecting the nose and throat. An infected person would develop a thick covering called pseudomembrane formation in the back of their throat, causing a person’s airways to be blocked and experience difficulty in breathing.

This disease can be transmitted by droplets spread through sneezing, coughing and close contact to an infected person.

Health officials said immunization remains as the most effective prevention for the disease.

Parents are encouraged to have their infants completely immunized with three doses of DPT at ages 6 weeks old, 10 weeks old and 14 weeks old to counter diphtheria.

The DOH said the anti-toxin for diphtheria is available in the country, through the assistance of the World Health Organization.

Antibiotics for diphtheria, namely penicillin, erythromycin, clarithromycin, and azithromycin, are also locally and commercially available.

Aside from diphtheria, the DOH also urged parents and caregivers to protect children from other vaccine-preventable diseases, such as pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus, through immunization.

“Now more than ever, the importance of protecting our infants and children from vaccine-preventable diseases remains paramount,” it said.

The DOH also calls in local government units and health professionals to work together to ensure that every child will receive vaccines on time to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and increase the country’s immunization coverage.

DOH halts implementation of e-cigarette, vaping regulations

Marje Pelayo   •   October 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has put on hold the implementation of its regulation on the use of e-cigarettes and vapes across the country.

According to the DOH, the decision was prompted by an injunction order issued by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court following a petition filed by e-cigarette companies.

The Department said e-cigarette firms are opposing the implementation of the regulation citing negative impacts on their income.

“Ayaw nilang mag-rehistro (They do not want to register),” said DOH spokesman Undersecretary Eric Domingo.

“Ayaw nilang ma-limit natin iyong nicotine content noong mga produkto, iyong volume na ibenta (They do not want to limit the products’ nicotine content and the volume),” he added.

Based on the administrative order issued by the DOH in June, all distributors, manufacturers, and sellers of e-cigarettes and vapes need to register to ensure that their use is properly regulated.

“Gusto natin may health warning. Gusto natin strictly kailangan ng ID (We want to include health warnings in the packaging. We strictly want an identification),” Domingo said.

“Hindi siya pwedeng ibenta sa mga menor de edad (They shouldn’t be sold to minors) and I think these are the things that the industry is trying to stop us from enforcing,” he added.

Based on DOH’s records, a total of 152 e-cigarette and vape manufacturers and retailers have already registered.

But the DOH is determined to stand by its regulation especially since the World Health Organization (WHO) has proven vapes’ harmful effects on human health.

“We are really very upset about this development but we will have to fight in the court for why we issued that administrative order,” Domingo noted.

Meanwhile, health experts are encouraging e-cigarettes and vape users to have themselves check as they might have developed illnesses associated with vaping.

Based on records of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food Drug Administration, 26 individuals have already died from a total of 1,300 cases of vaping-related illnesses.

“[That’s confirmed.] Therefore since [there are proofs] we have to do something about it,” Dr. Maria Encarnita Limpin, Secretary of the Philippine College of Physicians, concluded. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

DOH advises travelers to receive polio vaccine before leaving, entering PHL

Robie de Guzman   •   October 11, 2019

A Filipino health worker displays polio vaccines 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) is urging all travelers to get immunized against polio before leaving and entering the Philippines, following a declaration of an outbreak of polio in the country.

In an advisory, the DOH encouraged foreign nationals and returning Filipinos of all ages, who are intending to stay in the Philippines for four weeks and more to receive a single dose of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) not later than four weeks before their scheduled travel to the Philippines.

This is if the traveler has not received polio vaccination in the last 12 months.

Those embarking on an urgent travel within four weeks are urged to get a single dose of IPV at least by the time of departure as this will still “provide benefits, particularly for frequent travelers.”

The DOH also advised travelers leaving the Philippines to check the immunization requirements of the country they are going to, and if required, receive a dose of IPV before departure.

They are also encouraged to get their International Certificate of Vaccination from the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) to serve as proof of their vaccination.

The advisory came weeks after the Philippines declared a type 2 polio outbreak following confirmed cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus.

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 DOH also said the presence of poliovirus was also detected in collected sewage water samples from Manila and Davao.

The disease re-emerged 19 years after the country was declared polio-free.

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease which spreads rapidly. It can cause paralysis and, on rare occasions, can be fatal.

The DOH said there is no cure for polio and it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), polio mainly affects children under five years of age, and vaccination is their only and best protection against the highly infectious disease.

But if immunization activities are poorly conducted and too few children have received the required three doses of polio vaccine, the agency said this can leave them “susceptible to poliovirus, either from vaccine-derived or wild polioviruses.”

Although the risk of international spread of polio is low, the WHO said that the of transmission and recirculation of the Polio virus within the Philippines is high due to low population immunity.

The World Health Organization stated that the risk of international spread of Polio is low, however, the risk of transmission and recirculation of the Polio virus within the Philippines is high due to low population immunity.

DOH signs IRR of Universal Health Care Law

Freema Gloria   •   October 10, 2019

Patients receive medical attention inside a hospital in the town of Isulan, Sultan Kudarat province. EPA-EFE/JEOFFREY MAITEM

The Department of Health (DOH) has signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Universal Health Care Law.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III led the signing of the IRR of the UHC law or the Republic Act 11223 which was witnessed by various health sectors.

The said historical event marks the implementation of the UHC law following its publication.

Under the Universal Health Care law, all Filipinos will be automatic members of Philhealth as direct or indirect contributors and will equally benefit from the no balance billing (NBB) once they have been admitted to the hospitals’ basic or ward accommodation.

Secretary Duque stated, the implementation of the said law will be gradual due to budget constraints.

At least P257 billion will be the required fund for its first-year implementation, yet only P167 billion has been approved.

By the year 2020 to 2024, the department will be needing more than P1- trillion fund for the operation of universal health care.

Duque added that the Philhealth premium rates will increase by 0.25% per year from its current 2.75%.

Philhealth, on its part, will consider giving new benefits for those who are paying their contributions which will be different from the beneficiaries of the Universal Health Care Act. — FSG (from the report of Nel Maribojoc)

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