DOH screens returning OFWs from West Africa
MANILA, Philippines — With a thousand or so Filipinos working and living in Ebola-hit countries, the government said it has started screening those who decided to return to home.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said they started enforcing the screening procedure three weeks ago.
At that time, the death toll was only more than 2,000 out of the 6,000 cases. Now it has breached the 4,000 mark, with those infected reaching more than 8,000, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Everything is being done to make sure that [there is no] chance a patient infected with Ebola [will come to the Philippines],” Ona said at the sidelines of the the 65th Session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for the Western Pacific.
Ona said they have already arranged for overseas Filipino workers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to acquire a medical clearance first before being allowed to fly to the Philippines.
The clearance meant that the OFW had already been interviewed about whether they were exposed to someone with the virus.
At the same time, they will be asked to wait for 21 days to make sure that they do not have the symptoms, unless there is an emergency.
The WHO calls the Ebola virus a severe and often fatal illness. It has flu-like symptoms and can be acquired through direct contact with body fluids and objects and animals contaminated with the virus. Its incubation period is 21 days, meaning the symptoms may not appear within 21 days.
“Many of those infected with the virus are exposed in hospitals where there are patients with Ebola…But what is unique about Ebola is that it is not contagious if there are still no symptoms,” Ona explained.
Those who are cleared can return home but must still be in close contact with the Department of Health.
Ona said the person will be asked to stay inside his house for another 21 days for assurance.
Asked how the government would be able to require people to follow instructions, Ona said, “If you are the passenger, why won’t you do it? It will be beneficial for you and your family.”
He said the OFW can easily contact the DOH by phone.
Ona revealed that they have a list of the 1,755 Filipinos staying in the three West African countries and have monitored around 40 who successfully returned to the Philippines.
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