MANILA - The De La Salle University-Manila (DLSU-M) closed its Taft Ave. campus starting Wednesday (June 3) afternoon, due to a confirmed case of influenza A (H1N1) in their school. This is first case in the country of a school applying the DOH-mandated alert status for A (H1N1) cases.
"Classes and offices are suspended on 3 June 2009 from 4:20 pm onwards. The closure of the campus will be until 14 June 2009 in view of its first confirmed case of the Influenza A N1H1 virus," a short notice posted on the DLSU website (www.dlsu.edu.ph) stated.
In a statement, the Department of Health (DOH) said the new confirmed case involves a 21-year-old female foreign student who arrived in the country last May 12.
DLSU officials told the DOH that classes for the first trimester of the school year officially started last May 25. On May 29 --four days after classes started and 17 days since she arrived-- the student only reported very mild symptoms, catching the attention of school authorities.
On May 31, the exchange student consulted a health facility where she was examined and tested for the presence of the virus through a throat swab. The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) confirmed today that the specimen taken from the DLSU student is positive for A (H1N1).
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said they are currently investigating and doing contact tracing to see if there were others who were exposed to the new case.
The DOH's Initial findings revealed that other students had limited exposure to the confirmed case, thus, both the DOH and school authorities can trace them.
The student is already in a healthcare facility and is being closely monitored, a statement from the DLSU administration said.
DLSU is heeding the new H1N1-related alert system for cancellation of classes put in place last week by the health and education department as the country faced rising number of confirmed H1N1 cases.
Regular classes for schools started in June 1. DLSU, which conducts three semesters in a school year, started classes earlier.
DLSU's suspension of classes follows the guidelines for Response Level 3 of the alert system for schools. The critical alert signal, according to Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, starts at Level 3.
Response Level 3 means there is a confirmed case in a school and a sudden increase in absenteeism due to flu. Classes in a school with a Level 3 alert have to be suspended.
The highest alert signal is Level 4, where there is more than one school with confirmed H1N1 infection within a community. "This is when we suspend classes in schools within the community," Lapus said.
Duque said school principals, the education secretary, and the higher education chief can order the suspension of classes, depending on the level of flu alert.
The health secretary said the alert system will help the Department of Education and the DOH "target the particular area where there is a confirmed case of H1N1." He said the alert system would avoid one-time nationwide suspension of classes due to the dreaded influenza virus.
Lapus said the alert system was put up to avoid "panic" calls for suspension of the opening of classes on June 1.
DOH and DLSU officials have already met to discuss the situation and come up with succeeding steps to prevent the spread of the virus to other members of the school community.
Bro. Armin Luistro FSC, DLSU President and Chancellor, expressed his full cooperation with the DOH on the ongoing containment measures and said that DLSU will immediately invoke the recommended measures contained in the Response Level System in Schools initially released by the DOH last May 31.
Duque lauded the cooperation of DLSU school officials.
The DLSU administration also informed students and faculty who were in the same class as the confirmed case to do self-monitoring of symptoms at home and to report immediately to authorities if they become ill.
Duque also appealed to these students and school staff to temporarily avoid going to malls and other crowded areas during the period of class suspension.
As a precautionary measure, although they do not belong to the affected classes, all other students, faculty and personnel of DLSU should consider self-monitoring and avoiding crowded gatherings as well.
"Members of the DLSU Community are advised to regularly check the DLSU website for updates and developments on the issue, and announcements on the rescheduling of University events and activities," the DLSU statement read.
22 total cases
The new confirmed case brings the total number of A (H1N1) cases in the Philippines to 22.
Duque also said that the three previously reported confirmed cases will be discharged today. To date, 14 of the 22 confirmed cases have already been sent home.
Since May 1, the DOH has monitored a total of 401 possible cases, 22 of which were tested positive, 78 have pending laboratory results, and the rest negative.
There are also 56 new cases under observation as of Wednesday.
The DLSU has opened an A (H1N1) hotline, at telephone number 526-5913. The DOH hotline is at 711-1001 / 711-1002. With reports from dzMM, and Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News