BAGUIO CITY — City and health officials assured the public that they are doing all possible measures to prevent the potential spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV).

In a press briefing on February 7, Dr. Celiaflor Brilliantes of the Baguio City Health Office told the media that the city already communicated with the different establishments in Baguio to set up monitoring mechanisms.

She said that they already reached out to schools catering to international students and barangay officials for their local emergency responses.

“Our health centers now are alert and vigilant. We are supporting the executive orders of the mayor on the creation of the interagency task force and the creation and mobilizing of the barangay health emergency response teams. And to reach out to all establishments in Baguio,” elaborated city health official.

According to her, while they are currently busy educating their staff, the public should expect “a saturation of [information, education, and communication]’ activities in the coming days.

She also noted the shortage of facemask but said that officials are looking for means to increase the supply.

“It’s a mandate to all that are ill, coughing, and sneezing right now to use the mask,” she underscored.

The doctor also reminded the public to keep a healthy lifestyle because 51% of those who acquired the infection, including those who died, have other illnesses. Among those she underscored is the toll that physical and mental stress, which weakens the immunes system.

Health personnel from the city and the Department of Health Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) started giving regular situation update on the matter to guide the officials and the public since February 6. Baguio also scaled-down the activities for the Panagbenga Festival and postponed the regional athletic meet as part of the measure against the posibble spread of the 2019-nCoV.  

Schools cooperating

According to Brilliantes, English language schools and those catering foreign students agreed to the steps recommended by the city concerning the 2019-nCoV measures.

She said that in their meeting last Tuesday, school administrators gave their commitments to provide masks and hand sanitizers for their students. They will also impose a temporary ban on students coming outside the country.

“They started talking to their students not to pursue their coming here in the Philippines until further notice. [T]hey are all cooperative on that, and they can teach their foreign students, so they opted to adapt that also,” she explained.

School officials are also required to comply with the fever surveillance mechanisms facilitated by the district health offices. These will provide close monitoring of symptoms of students, especially those who traveled abroad and updated daily.

nCoV lab in Baguio

Earlier, the Baguio General Hospital Medical Center (BGHMC), said that they are hoping that the World Health Organization would accredit them as a reference laboratory for the nCoV.

Dr. Crist Jamora, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist of the BGHMC, said this would hasten the administration of the test for the growing number of suspected infections in the country.

According to her, the BGHMC already has a Polymerase Chain Reaction machine to test the presence of the virus. The equipment can detect the DNAs of viruses, which include Japanese encephalitis, flu, and H1N1, among others. The BGHMC is already testing for the H1N1 virus.

“But for the novel Corona we still need to go through proficiency and parallel testing with the RITM,” Jamora said.

She also informed the media that BGHMC has a building dedicated to infectious diseases. The hospital, according to her, dedicated the first floor of this building to cater to suspected nCoV cases. Presently, the first floor has five isolation rooms with two more under construction, an emergency room, and rooms for health care personnel.

PUI cases in the Cordillera

Jamora revealed they confined the first patient under investigation (PUI) for the 2019-nCoV in the Cordillera at BGHMC infectious disease building.

“We are still waiting for the test results if it is negative, and there are no other complications the patient will be discharged,” she said.

DOH-CAR said that there are four PUIs as of February 7 – one from Baguio, two from Benguet, and one from Mountain Province.

According to DOH-CAR director Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, the patients voluntarily submitted themselves for quarantine. She said that all the individuals made recent travel to Hong Kong and not related to each other.

She also reiterated that there are no confirmed 2019-nCoV cases in the Cordillera. Also, the DOH Cordillera chief reminded the public to get information from verified sources such as the DOH, the World Health Organizations, and the Center for Disease Control.

Health officials said they expect the number of PUI cases with the intensified contact monitoring and tracking, and the related measures they are implementing. # nordis.net

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