MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) may soon abandon its approach of containing people infected with the influenza A (H1N1) virus since all the confirmed cases in the country are just similar to mild flu cases.
At a press conference Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the health department expects the number of swine flu cases to go up even more because there are no restrictions on air travel.
As of June 5, the DOH has recorded 33 confirmed cases of H1N1 with no deaths.
Duque said the DOH is more concerned about the rise in dengue cases than swine flu.
He said the mortality rates of dengue, malaria, typhoid fever or leptosperosis are even higher than H1N1. From January to May 2009, the Philippines has had 6,538 cases of dengue with 57 deaths.
“It is not the 1918 Spanish flu,” he said. The Spanish flu outbreak killed between 3% to 6% of the world’s population.
New approach planned
Since all H1N1 cases in the Philippines have turned out to be mild, he said the DOH may soon adopt a new approach in managing influenza A (H1N1) patients.
“No longer do we have to contain people,” he said.
Instead, the DOH will adopt a mitigation strategy where, rather than putting people in designated medical facilities, they will just let people rest in their homes, visit the hospital, and ask them to get tested.
Duque said it would be difficult to quarantine everyone affected if the number of cases continue to go up. Shutting down commercial and business establishments due to the spread of the virus will also harm the economy.
Duque also noted that while "there are medicines to treat swine flu, [there is] none for dengue." Doctors use the drug oseltamivir to treat H1N1 cases.
As the current chair of ASEAN Plus 3 (ASEAN + China, Japan, South Korea) health ministers, Duque said he is urging the World Health Organization not to raise the alert level of H1N1 to pandemic phase 6.
“They should take into consideration not only the geographic spread of the virus, but also the fatality rate,” he said.
He lamented that as a result of the panic brought about by the A(H1N1) virus, people are not guarding themselves against more serious diseases like dengue.
However, he said that although swine flu is not a big problem, everyone should be cautious.
Duque also noted that unlike the deadly flu outbreak in 1918, there have been advances in medicine and technology.
Duque said the onset of the rainy season means the rise of WILD diseases--Water-Born Infectious diseases, Leptosperosis, and Dengue.
Eating food not prepared properly or drinking contaminated water are sources of water-borne infectious diseases.
Rat urine is the source of leptosperosis, which could enter the body if an open wound is exposed to contaminated flood waters. This disease damages the kidneys.
Duque said dengue is even more worrisome today because mosquitoes are feistier and more hyperactive due to climate change.
He said that even seven-day-old mosquitoes bite. “They are very hungry. They need strength.”
Get Rid of Trash
Meantime, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Bayani Fernando urged the public to cooperate in fighting infectious diseases by proper waste disposal practices.
He said the MMDA has been holding clearing operations and environmental programs to help the health department fight infectious diseases.
He said that instead of using a metric square of your house to keep trash, throw it and have someone rent it.
“That is P200 per metric square when you rent in Metro Manila. That’s [rent] where the money is, not in trash,” he said.
Fernando admitted that his reputation is suffering because of the clearing operations they are doing.
He added it is his task to remove informal settlers near waterways because this causes floods, which helps breed mosquitos and spread mosquito-borne diseases.
“It is not anymore my concern to give them homes. That is the concern of another agency,” he said.