DOH allays bird flu fears after OFW from China dies
MANILA, Philippines–A 52-year-old Filipino musician who returned recently from China died two weeks ago after days of showing symptoms of the bird flu. His death, however, ended the possibility of the virus would spread in the country, according to the Department of Health.
At a press briefing on Monday, acting Health Secretary Janette Garin said the overseas Filipino worker’s death was considered a possible case of avian flu due to his travel history, exposure to live poultry, the symptoms he showed and the quick progress of his condition.
The OFW developed a cough, fever and diarrhea a day after he arrived on Feb. 9. He died on Feb. 14 after a couple of visits to the hospital for treatment, Garin told reporters.
“He had been working in China for six years but he decided to come home and be with his family when he felt he was becoming weak,” she said.
“This patient was initially referred to as a possible case of MERS (Middle east respiratory syndrome). However, upon review of his case profile, avian flu was a more proximate consideration,” said Garin.
People who had close contact with the patient before his death had already been given prophylaxis treatment for a week using Tamiflu, a frontline drug to treat bird flu. They have also been cleared of the virus after a week-long observation, which ended on Feb. 21.
Garin said health experts from Hong Kong closely monitored and guided local specialists in handling the suspected bird flu case.
“Initially, we considered an autopsy. But we saw the danger of performing an autopsy since if it was indeed [a case of] bird flu, there is the possibility the virus might be shed into the environment,” she said.
Garin said that instead, a “fully guided” biopsy was conducted on the body by trained personnel.
The result of the biopsy revealed pulmonary findings but they were “inconclusive,” said Garin. “The body was cremated, hence, this case has been declared closed,” she added that there was no other way to safely confirm if it was indeed bird flu.
Since none of the family members and others who had contact with the patient showed symptoms of bird flu, Garin said the Philippines remained free of the virus, which has infected birds and people in China and other Asian countries.
“If indeed the patient contracted bird flu, his death has ended the possibility of transmission. So there is nothing to fear,” she said.
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