RP now 8th in H1N1 flu cases

Posted at 07/04/09 9:36 PM

MANILA - The Philippines now ranks 8th worldwide in terms of the number of confirmed cases of the influenza A-H1N1 virus.

The country, which was in 10th place just 3 days ago, has overtaken Argentina and Japan, with over 1,700 cases and one death.

The Philippines also has the highest number of infections in South East Asia followed by Thailand and Singapore.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Saturday urged companies to quickly draw up "contingent business continuity plans" ahead of a possible "second wave" of the flu virus.

The TUCP said employees have to be assured of the least possible stoppage in their jobs and income.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the spread of the influenza A-H1N1 virus is now "unstoppable".

H1N1 Summit

At the H1N1 summit in Cancun, Mexico on July 2, WHO director-general Margaret Chan told health ministers from across the globe the world is in the early days of the 2009 influenza pandemic.

She warned that although most health systems are coping well with the pandemic, there is a need to "watch very carefully what happens during the current winter season in the Southern Hemisphere."

"We are still seeing a largely reassuring clinical picture. The overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a full recovery within a week, often in the absence of any form of medical treatment. Research published last week confirms that this pattern, in which most patients experience mild influenza-like illness, has also been seen in Mexico," she said.

"Most cases of severe and fatal infection continue to occur in people with underlying medical conditions. We are getting, day-by-day, better data on the specific conditions that place patients at heightened risk," Chan added.

She cited the need to study why some healthy people have died from the virus.

"There are some exceptions that must be the focus of particular concern. For reasons that are poorly understood, some deaths are occurring in perfectly healthy young people. Moreover, some patients experience a very rapid clinical deterioration, leading to severe, life-threatening viral pneumonia that requires mechanical ventilation," she said.

Click here for her speech: http://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2009/influenza_h1n1_lessons_20090702/en/index.html

The number of cases is expected to rise with Britain alone projected to hit 100,000 cases by the end of August.

The H1N1 summit was called to design strategies for battling the pandemic, which has already affected nearly 90,000 people and killed nearly 400 others.

DOH too slow

Meanwhile, Muntinlupa Congressman Ruffy Biazon is dismayed by the system with which H1N1 cases in the country are being processed.

Biazon said the Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) are somewhat negligent.

The congressman issued the statement after his son and a nephew exhibited symptoms of the flu virus.

Biazon's son studies at De La Salle St. Benilde, which was among the first schools to confirm an infection.

Biazon's son tested negative, but his cousin was found positive.

The congressman said it took 5 days to get the results of the swab tests, and by then, his nephew had already recovered.
He said, “Dapat meron ding ibang testing centers, suwerte tayo mild ang virus. Paano kung mabagsik, hindi tayo handa.”

The RITM explained the results take long to be released since it is the only laboratory capable of confirming the flu virus.

While many hospitals are able to get swab specimens, all these are sent to the RITM.
“Sa taas ng standards, we are the only laboratory accredited by the WHO,” said Dr. Remigio Olveda, director of the RITM.

The health department also said putting up another laboratory to confirm H1N1 infections would be costly and time-consuming.

But by August, the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical center in Cebu and the Davao Medical Center in Mindanao will be able to process swab specimens.

While Biazon acknowledged government's lack of funds, he said authorities should begin addressing these problems to better prepare for deadlier diseases or even a stronger strain of the H1N1 virus. – with reports from ANC