PH braces for Ebola; sending of medics to Africa opposed
MANILA, Philippines–The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) will be acquiring 40 protective suits for its personnel to use in the event that a person infected with the Ebola virus reaches Philippine soil.
The MIAA, which runs the four terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), said it has the basic equipment to fight other diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), but not for the dreaded Ebola.
Lt. Col. Robert Simon, officer in charge of the MIAA’s airport emergency services department, said the personal protection equipment—gowns, boots, face masks and gloves—the MIAA has at present is different from the apparel designed for Ebola virus.
“It should be thicker for Ebola virus so that no fluids can permeate into the wearer’s skin,” Simon said.
The MIAA serves as a support agency to the Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) which is on the front line of government efforts to prevent the virus, which had killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa this year alone, from entering the country.
Apart from the protective apparel, the MIAA has an inflatable medical tent in case an infected person has to be treated in isolation.
The airport personnel who will be using the Ebola protective suits recently underwent training on how to handle passengers with infectious diseases from the Bureau of Fire and Protection.
Simon said the MIAA has also been preparing for possible scenarios. “One scenario could be an infected person aboard an aircraft approaching Manila. Our personnel should be prepared for that,” he said.
The Bureau of Quarantine will handle the decontamination of the aircraft and the isolation of the afflicted persons, he said.
Dr. Cesar Anastacio, the station chief of the BoQ at the Naia, said the agency has the Ebola protective gear but did not say how many.
Revisit SARS in PH
Former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit on Thursday said the government can revisit how it handled the SARS virus when it reached the Philippines at the height of the deadly outbreak in Asia 11 years ago as it prepares for the possible entry of the deadlier Ebola.
Dayrit recounted that the country was able to successfully contain SARS when it reached here by choking the spread of the disease at entry points and through effective epidemiological surveillance, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation of cases. The Philippines had 14 SARS cases, of which two died.
“We have to assume that Ebola will reach our shores… Given air travel and the fact that we have so many OFWs, it’s going to come… The fear is going to set in and if we are not psychologically, organizationally and logistically prepared, it is going to be very, very difficult,” said Dayrit in a speech at the national Ebola virus disease summit last week.
Meanwhile, several medical groups on Wednesday said they were not in favor of sending Filipino health workers to Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa.
“We should not send health workers to Ebola-hit countries. We should strengthen our own front and take all measures to prevent entry in our ports,” said Dr. Minerva Calimag, the president of the Philippine Medical Association, an umbrella organization of medical doctors in the country.
The government has not yet made a decision on how to respond to a global call to dispatch more doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to stem the spread of the disease, which has already claimed more than 4,400 lives.
The Philippine College of Physicians and the Council for Health and Development, a national organization of community-based health programs in the Philippines, issued similar statements on Wednesday.
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