MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday appealed to the public to refrain from believing unverified information about the mysterious viral pneumonia outbreak that has affected 59 people so far in China.
Speaking to DZMM, Duque reminded Filipinos that they should only get their information from the Department of Health.
"Ang pangunahing impormasyon na dapat pong paniwalaan ng ating mga kababayan ay 'yun lamang pong magmumula sa Department of Health, dahil ang Department of Health ang may awtoridad at may kakayahan na makipag-ugnayan sa WHO para makapagbigay ng makatotohanang mga balita," he said.
(The primary information that the public should believe in are those from the Department of Health, because the Department of Health has the authority and the capability to coordinate with the WHO [World Health Organization] and to provide verified information.)
"At sana po ay hindi tayo basta basta naniniwala sa mga sabi-sabi mula sa mga iba't ibang grupo na hindi naman po validated o verified," he added.
(And I hope we don't just believe unverified or unvalidated information from different groups.)
According to Duque, the DOH is still waiting for an official health advisory from the WHO regarding the disease.
"Maghihintay muna tayo ng mas malinaw na impormasyon pero sa ngayon, dapat hindi siguro muna tayo masyadong nababahala at 'wag din tayong nagbibigay ng mga komento na hindi naman talaga nakakatulong sa pag-intindi sa sakit na namamayagpag sa Wuhan City of China," he said.
(We are still waiting for clearer information about it but for now, we shouldn't be too worried and we should avoid giving unnecessary comments that would not be helpful in understanding this disease in Wuhan City of China.)
Duque also said China has learned from its experience with the SARS virus in 2003 and is now more transparent about the illness.
Health Spokesperson and Undersecretary Eric Domingo earlier said health officers at airports are using thermal scanners on passengers from China, who have to undergo physical examination and quarantine if they have fever, colds and cough.
The infection was first reported last week in Wuhan, a central Chinese city with a population of over 11 million -- leading to online speculation about a resurgence of the highly contagious SARS virus that killed hundreds more than a decade ago.
China on Sunday said the outbreak was not the flu-like virus SARS. The Wuhan police also said they punished 8 people for "publishing or forwarding false information on the internet without verification."
The symptoms reported in patients were mainly fever, with a few patients having difficulty in breathing and chest radiographs showing invasive lesions on both lungs.
Seven of the 59 patients are seriously ill but that none have died, the Wuhan health commission said. All are being treated in quarantine, it added.