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DoH to use info-tech to monitor drug prices

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Health (DoH) will use the information highway to monitor prices of medicines sold in giant retail outlets.

Dr. Ariel Valencia, DoH regional director in Western Visayas, said they are about to complete the orientation of pharmacies on the Electronic-Essential Drugs Price Monitoring System (e-EDPMS).

The e-EDPMS provides a system and procedure for the data collection on prices of selected essential drugs.

The monitoring system requires pharmacies to use e-EDPMS computer software that is linked to the Bureau of Foods and Drugs (BFAD), DoH Information Management Service and Centers for Health Development around the country.

Data generated by the e-EDPMS will be uploaded daily to the EDPMS website at http://umis.doh.gov.ph/edpms.

The e-EDPMS is part of the National Drug Policy-Pharmaceutical Management Unit (NDP-PMU 50) or Pharma 50.

The Pharma 50 unit was established to operationalize, manage and monitor the implementation of all DOH initiatives, programs and projects, whose paramount objective is to achieve the reduction of the price of drugs and medicines.

Valencia said e-EDPMS will help the DoH keep track of prices of medicines, particularly the five molecules that are subject of mandatory drug retail price (MDRP) set by the Cheaper Medicines Law (CML) and its implementing rules and regulation.

Valencia said drug stores must follow the 50% slash in prices of medicines included in the MDRP list of the DoH.

The medicines covered by the MDRP include anti-hypertensives, anti-thrombotic, anti-diabetic/antihypoglycemic, and antibiotic/antibacterial.

“Big drug stores such as Mercury and Watsons have complied with the law already. Smaller pharmacies should talk with the main suppliers and manufacturers so they can get rebates for products they bought before the implementation of the law last August 15,” Valencia said.

Drugs stores with stocks bought before the implementation of the CML have until September 15 to fully comply with the law.

Valencia said consumers should report violators to the BFAD regional office with telephone number 3210204. He also advised consumers to keep receipts issued by drug stores as proof of their violations.

In Capiz, Jessie Contreras, Capiz Emmanuel Hospital (CEH) administrator, also urged consumers to keep receipts of their medicine purchases to help identify drugstores that don’t follow the CML.

Contreras, who is also the executive vice president of the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines (PHAP), complaints against erring drugstores maybe lodged with his office at the CEH.

“It is better that there are complaints so that I could bring these to Department of Health Secretary Duque during our PHAP meeting in Manila on Aug. 24,” Contreras said.

Contreras said pharmacies of Capiz-based private hospitals are compliant with Executive Order 821 which mandates a 50% cut on the prices of five essential medicines. (With reports from PIA-Capiz)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

THE number of dengue cases in Western Visayas this year continues to rise, exceeding last year’s cases, the Department of Health (DoH-6) said.

Latest data from the DoH said a total of 1,675 dengue cases were reported in the region since January to July 26, 2009, which is 160 cases higher than the 1,515 cases for the January to July 18 period.

Almost half of the dengue cases are children 1-10 years old.

The DoH said the latest number of cases this year is 26% higher than last year’s recorded cases.

The number of fatalities also increased to 26, mostly from the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo.

The total dengue cases in city and province of Iloilo totaled 927 with 16 deaths.

Negros Occidental has 533 cases with two fatalities; Capiz (93 cases, 1 death); Aklan (53 cases); Guimaras (40 cases, 1 death); Antique (9 cases).

Meanwhile, a total of 55 persons in Western Visayas were found positive for Influenza A(H1N1) virus. Of the total cases, 51 are Filipinos including 29 male and 26 female. Most of the patients are 10-19 years old.

Twenty-nine patients contracted the virus after returning from trips abroad.

Negros Occidental and Capiz have 15 A(H1N1) flu cases while Iloilo City has 13 cases.

Bacolod City has 12 cases, Iloilo province 10 while Aklan and Antique have 1 case each.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE number of dengue cases in Western Visayas is on the verge of epidemic proportion, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

In the latest update from the DoH-6 Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU), 1,225 dengue cases were monitored from January 1 to July 4, 2009.

The number of cases from January to July this year is 13% lower compared to last year’s admission of 1,415 cases. This year’s figures already reached the epidemic threshold for the entire region. Epidemic threshold refers to the minimum number of cases that need to be observed in order to assert that an epidemic is taking place.

Bacolod City reported the highest number of cases with 346 while Iloilo City has 319 cases.

A total of 21 deaths were reported with a case fatality ratio (CFR) of 1.7%. Iloilo City has the most number of deaths with 13 (CFR 4.08%).

Iloilo province reported 221 cases including 5 deaths, Negros Occidental (200 cases, 2 deaths), Capiz (79 cases, 1 death), Aklan (34 cases) Guimaras (21 cases) and Antique (5 cases).

Ages of dengue patients in the region ranged from less than 1 month to 75 years old. Majority of cases were male (52%). Some 50% of the cases are children from 0-9 years old.

The DoH recommended the intensified anti-dengue activities, particularly in schools and other areas with identified cases.

Other recommendations from the health department are:

-         activation of dengue fast lanes in all health facilities;

-         mobilization of the community in regular clean-up drives;

-         strengthening of the voluntary blood donation program;

-         strict compliance with dengue clinical treatment protocol;

and encouraging the use of insecticide imbedded nets as mosquito nets or window/door screen.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Health (DOH-6) is keeping tabs of the bidding process on the P33-million hospital equipment upgrading project of the Iloilo provincial government.

Dr. Ariel Valencia, DoH-6 regional director, said they assigned a technical working group (TWG) headed by Drs. Clodualdo Divinagracia Jr. and Emilia Monicinpo.

“The technical working group will look into the specifications of hospital equipment to be purchased by the provincial government. In fact, we retrieved the listing of hospital equipment to be purchased and find out if these match the standards and specifications of the department,” Valencia said.

Valencia said they will also determine if the price range of the equipment is commensurate to the specifications and standards set by the health department.

The DOH-6 chief said the TWG will not approve the payment for sub-standard hospital equipment purchased by the provincial government.

“The specifications of the equipment must meet our standards or else we will not endorse the payment to the supplier. Aside from accountability, we also want to assure that the public will use standard equipment,” he added.  

As regards qualifications of the bidders, Valencia said it is the responsibility of the provincial Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

Valencia said the P33-million funding is part of the Health Facilities Enhancement Program from the Office of the President.

The hospital enhancement program began in 2006 and aims to upgrade the equipment of provincial and district hospitals in the country.

Part of the fund went to Western Visayas, with P33 million allocated to Iloilo province in 2008 and another P38 million in 2009. The DoH will handle the bidding of the 2009 budget.

Valencia said Western Visayas congressmen worked together to allocate funds for the hospital facility enhancement project.

Valencia said Iloilo is the remaining province that has yet to bid out the needed equipment for district hospitals.

Medyo matagal na, last year pa dapat natapos yan. The other provinces were already done with the acquisition last year. We are under pressure to finish everything by December 2009 because the President wants to inaugurate all the facilities by then,” Valencia said.

Meanwhile, a member of the Provincial Legal Office reportedly blew his top upon learning that bid documents for the hospital equipment were sold to “favored contractors” or suppliers who are willing to give kickbacks to certain capitol officials.

But Atty. Edgar Sumido denied the report even as he stayed clear of the transactions.

“I hope nothing like that is happening,” Sumido said. He refused to expound on his reply. 

Sumido also denied having any knowledge that bid documents were sold to chosen contractors only. 

 “I have my own obligations.  I know nothing of such things,” he added.

Reports say some people at the governor’s office are “trying to influence” the bidding process.

Sumido said the BAC has been reshuffled because of the sterilizer and anesthesia machine controversy.

He said it cannot be possible that the same contractors are being favored under the new BAC composition.

The BAC, which is headed by provincial legal officer Salvador Cabaluna III, posted an invitation to apply for eligibility and to bid last July 3.

The contracts involve “supply, installation, testing and commissioning of various hospital equipment” for eight Iloilo provincial and district hospitals.

The recipient hospitals are the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan, Dumangas District Hospital in Dumangas, Ricardo S. Provido Memorial District Hospital in Calinog, Dr. Ricardo Y. Ladrido Memorial District Hospital in Lambunao, Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital in Cabatuan, Federico Ramon Tirador Sr. Memorial District Hospital in Janiuay, Don Valerio Palmares Memorial District Hospital in Passi City and H. Aleosan District Hospital in Alimodian.

The bids will be opened July 27, 2009 at the conference room of the Provincial Legal Office.

The provincial government was under fire early this year for the controversial purchase of the P1.3-million autoclave sterilizer by the Passi City district hospital and the P2.4-million anesthesia machine bought by the Calinog district hospital.

A Commission on Audit (CoA) report said Pacific Trade House (PTH), the winning bidder of the sterilizer, lacked a valid business permit when it joined the bidding January 22, 2008.

COA also found out that the sterilizer was locally manufactured and has no patent. In fact, the equipment conked out during the testing.

The audit body also discovered that Joemar Trading, which won the contract for the anesthesia machine, has interlocking ownership with PTH, CDC Pharmacy and Dione Trading.

CDC and Dione also joined the bidding for the anesthesia machine, COA said.

In its latest annual audit report, COA ordered the provincial government to refund the P1.3 million paid for the autoclave sterilizer. (With reports from Tara Yap)

Rep. Biron hits senator for Cheaper Meds Law scandal

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE main proponent of the Cheaper Medicines Law (CML) faulted a senator for the alleged bribery attempt by a multinational pharmaceutical company to hinder the implementation of the law.

Rep. Ferjenel G. Biron, (4th district, Iloilo) said the alleged bribery could have been avoided if Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas followed the congressman’s version of a drug price mechanism in the CML.

Biron said he had warned that vesting the power to regulate drug prices in one entity is prone to pressures by multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Biron said his hunch was proven after the Senate claimed that a drug company offered to provide 5 million discount cards to the government to impede the enforcement of the law.

Drug manufacturer Pfizer Philippines allegedly offered 5 million “sulit cards” to the Department of Health (DoH) to “provide cheaper medicines to the public.”

The discount cards are valued at P100 million or more, depending on the usage done by its recipients, according to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

The offer, which was allegedly rejected by the government, was made as President Gloria Arroyo was poised to set the maximum retail prices (MRP) for 22 most prescribed drugs in the country. The MRP is a provision of the CML (Republic Act 9502), which was passed last year.

Biron had proposed in his version of the CML an automatic mechanism or template that will set the MRP for medicines. 

He also proposed a drug price regulatory body that will either de-list or enlist essential drugs in the MRP list and follow the formula set by law.

“The automatic mechanism, which is actually a price formula, will ensure that the prices of essential medicines will go down, just like in India. If the mechanism is there, you don’t have to involve the DoH Secretary or the President in lowering the prices of medicines. You will just have to follow what’s written in the law,” Biron said.    

Biron also said the regulatory agency will be harder to bribe or pressure compared to a single agency (such as the DoH) or person (the health secretary or President).

“A collegial body would be difficult to hardball or grease compared to a single entity. All eyes will be on the board. I already warned about this when Roxas proposed that the DoH will recommend the MRP list to the President for approval,” he added. 

But Roxas, Senate committee on trade and industry, struck down Biron’s proposal.

Instead, Roxas proposed that the President, through the DoH, set the MRP of the most prescribed drugs in the country. The senator also pushed for parallel importation in a bid to lower drug prices.

Now, Roxas is blaming the DoH and President Arroyo for the alleged bribery and failure to implement the law.

But Biron said Roxas should blame himself, no one else.

“Why is Mar complaining now when he is the one who gave the power to set the prices of medicines to the President? He should be blaming himself because that’s his proposal. It is in the President already because he gave that power,” Biron said.

Biron also slammed Roxas for claiming the MRP as his brainchild.

“What MRP is he talking about? Mar Roxas for President? He knows nothing about the MRP because that is my idea. His only idea was parallel importation,” he added.

The US State Department earlier raised concerns on the parallel importation proviso of the law as it threatens to violate agreements on intellectual property rights which the Philippine government signed.

Biron said parallel importation of patented medicines will not lower drug prices because less than 2% of drug formulations are patented.

“The rest of the medicines can only be regulated through drug price control,” he said.

PFIZER DENIAL

In a statement, Pfizer said the allegations about the bribe try are both “unfounded and unhelpful.”

“Pfizer is committed to improving the health and well-being of Filipinos and believes that active and open dialogue with all key stakeholders on healthcare delivery is a crucial element. Last week’s meeting was undertaken in this spirit, and allegations to the contrary are both unfounded and unhelpful,” the statement from Pfizer read.

“Even prior to the passage of the Cheaper Medicines Act (R.A. 9502), our Sulit Patient Care Program over the past five years has helped 1.8 million Filipino patients live longer, healthier lives in partnership with the medical community,” Pfizer said.

“Pfizer fully supports the Government’s efforts to further improve healthcare delivery for the nation and seeks to achieve this via constructive dialogue,” the multinational pharmaceutical firm said.

Reiner Gloor, Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) executive director said the offer was made to the DoH, not to President Arroyo.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

TWO private schools in Iloilo City suspended their classes due to suspected A(H1N1) flu cases.

Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist of the Department of Health (DoH) in Western Visayas, said Iloilo Scholastic Academy (ISA) in LaPaz, Iloilo City suspended its classes for one week after several students suffered fever.

Alonsabe said they have yet to confirm if the students contracted Influenza A(H1N1) virus.

“That’s part of their precautionary measures in keeping with the joint guidelines of the DoH and the Department of Education,” Alonsabe said.

Some parents did not send their children to ISA for fear of contracting the virus

ISA will resume classes Monday even as school officials ordered the disinfection of the whole campus.

The University of San Agustin High School (USAHS) in Jaro district also suspended its classes although there was no confirmation that one of its students contracted Influenza A(H1N1) virus. The campus was also disinfected.

Assumption Iloilo suspended its classes last month until July 6 after one of its students tested positive for A(H1N1) flu.

Latest report from DoH data said eight more persons contracted the virus, bringing the total positive cases of A(H1N1) flu in Western Visayas to 22.

The DoH said six of the new cases came from Iloilo City and two from Bacolod City.

Two new cases under observation (CUOs) were also recorded as of Monday. One CUO is from Iloilo City and the other from Iloilo province.

This brings the total of CUOs in Western Visayas to 93, with 36 negative cases and 35 pending test results from the Research Institure for Tropical Medicine.

DoH-6 said 14 of the 22 confirmed A(H1N1) cases have recovered.

Aklan province, the gateway to Boracay Island, also recorded its first positive A(H1N1) flu case.

The patient is a 12-year-old Taiwanese girl who arrived in country via a China Airlines flight that landed at the Kalibo International Airport. She, together with her parents, were supposed to visit Boracay when airport authorities detected flu-like symptoms in the patient.

DoH officials took throat swab samples from the patient June 26 and sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for analysis. The result was released on July 1.

The city and province of Iloilo reported 9 positive A(H1N1) flu cases, Bacolod City and Negros Occidental (7), Capiz and Roxas City (5), and Kalibo (1).

by Tara Yap

EIGHT more persons tested positive for Influenza A(H1N1) virus in Western Visayas, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

As of July 6, a total of 22 positive A(H1N1) flu cases were recorded in the region.

DoH-6 said six of the eight new cases came from Iloilo City and two from Bacolod City.

The health department said four of the patients traveled outside to countries with A(H1N1) flu cases. The remaining four patients are students.

DoH 6 said the four students are under home quarantine and medication.

Two new cases under observation (CUOs) were also recorded as of Monday. One CUO is from Iloilo City and the other from Iloilo province.

This brings the total of CUOs in Western Visayas to 93, with 36 negative cases and 35 pending test results from the Research Institure for Tropical Medicine.

DoH-6 said 14 of the 22 confirmed A(H1N1) cases have recovered.

Meanwhile, health and local officials in Aklan are mum on the province’s first A(H1N1) flu case. 

The DoH-6 website bulletin confirmed the first positive case in Aklan province.

The patient is a 12-year-old Taiwanese who entered the country through a China Airlines flight that landed at the Kalibo International Airport.

Authorities at the airport noticed that she was exhibiting flu-like symptoms.  Instead of spending a vacation in the famous beach destination of Boracay, she underwent medical supervision until she tested positive for A(H1N1) flu.

by Tara Yap

FOUR more persons tested positive for Influenza A(H1N1) virus in Western Visayas as of July 3, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

This brings the total positive A(H1N1) flu cases in the region to 14.

The DoH-6 said the four new positive cases were in close contact with the high school student of Assumption Iloilo who earlier tested positive for the flu. 

Contract tracing performed by DOH 6 personnel confirmed that the two cases originated in Roxas City while the other two were found in the Catholic school in Iloilo City.

Classes were suspended in Assumption school June 23 when the female student, , who hails from Roxas City, tested positive for A(H1N1) flu. 

School officials immediately suspended classes upon suggestion of DoH 6 and the Iloilo City government. 

DOH 6 said that all four are now under home quarantine and medication. The patients no longer exhibit flu-like symptoms.

In addition, four new cases under observation (CUOs) were recorded as of Friday.  Two came from Bacolod City, one from Iloilo City and another one from Iloilo province.

This brings the total of CUOs in Western Visayas to 91 with 29 negative cases and 28 pending cases.

Meanwhile, classes will reopen in Assumption Iloilo this July 6 after the 10-day suspension.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A total of 16 persons in Western Visayas died of dengue fever since January, according to data from the Department of Health (DoH-6)

The DoH data said a total of 854 dengue cases were admitted in different Disease Reporting Units (DRUs) in Western Visayas January 1 to June 27, 2009. This is 22% lower compared to the same period last year with 1,048 cases.

The 16 deaths recorded in Western Visayas yielded a case fatality ratio (CFR) of 1.9%. CFR is the ratio of deaths within a designated population of people with a particular condition, over a certain period of time.  

The most number of deaths were from Iloilo City with 11 deaths or a CFR of 3.9%. Iloilo province has 4 fatalities while Capiz has 1 death.

Negros Occidental recorded the most number of confirmed cases with 304, Iloilo City (279), Iloilo province (207), Capiz (3), Guimaras (17), Aklan (10) and Antique (5).

The ages of dengue cases ranged from less than 1 month to 75 years old. Majority of cases were male (52%). Some 50% of the cases belonged to the 0-9 years age group.

In Iloilo City, majority of cases came from City proper district with clustering of cases noted in Brgy. Veterans Village.

Iloilo City proper recorded 91 confirmed cases including 3 deaths; Jaro-63 cases with 1 death; LaPaz-45 cases with no death; Molo-45 cases with 4 deaths; Mandurriao-21 cases with 2 fatalities; and Arevalo-16 cases including 1 death.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas will meet various sectors in the metropolis to discuss the conduct of a comprehensive information advocacy against dengue fever.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN elementary school in Bacolod City suspended classes Tuesday after 122 Grade 3 pupils caught fever.

The St. John’s Institute in Hilado Extension, Bacolod City suspended Grade 3 classes until Wednesday after several pupils started getting sick last Friday.

Majority of the sick students failed to come to school on Monday.

The Bacolod City Health Office has advised the school to monitor the conditions of the pupils, who may have been infected with influenza A (H1N1) virus. The school has also disinfected the campus.

Dr. Salome Biñas, city health officer, said they have yet to determine if any of the pupils had history of travel to a country with confirmed A (H1N1) cases

There are four confirmed A(H1N1) flu cases in Bacolod City.

Meanwhile, the Iloilo City government will buy flu vaccines to be distributed to City Hall workers amid the rising cases of Influenza A(H1N1) in the country.

Mayor Jerry Treñas said they will purchase the vaccines once the stocks arrive from Argentina this month.

The vaccines will be given free to city hall employees. The remaining stocks will be distributed to barangay officials and other local officials.

The city government was supposed to bid out the vaccines but supply was running short after the World Health Organization declared a A(H1N1) flu pandemic.

“When the stocks arrive, we will decide how much we will purchase. We will give the vaccines to workers who want to get a shot,” Treñas said.

A seaman from Jaro district was the first confirmed A(H1N1) case in Iloilo City.

A student of Assumption-Iloilo, who is a native of Roxas City, also tested positive for the flu.

The third confirmed case is an overseas Filipino worker in Iloilo who came from Saudi Arabia.

The Department of Health said the total confirmed A(H1N1) flu cases in Western Visayas remain at 10 with 83 cases under observation. (With reports from abs-cbnnews.com)

Another A(H1N1) case in the region found

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap

 

THE public should not shun the Iloilo City barangay and its residents where the first Influenza A(H1N1) case in the city was detected.

The Department of Health (DoH) issued the advisory even as another A(H1N1) case was confirmed in Capiz province Thursday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the region to 5.

A DoH official said the family of the 38-year-old seaman infected by the virus and their neighbors at Brgy. Dungon-B, Jaro should not be discriminated.

Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, DoH regional epidemiologist, also asked the media to be prudent in reporting the first A(H1N1) case in the city, particularly in taking images and footages of the seaman’s house and family.

“There might be discrimination towards the family or they might be ostracized by the public. The barangay might also be affected because residents from other areas might not pass by Dungon-B and divert to other areas. Instead of passing by Diversion Road, all motorists will pass by Ungka and CPU area. That would cause a major traffic jam,” Alonsabe said.

Brgy. Dungon-B leads towards Benigno S. Aquino Avenue or Diversion Road which connects Jaro to Molo and Iloilo City proper districts.

Alonsabe said other people have the tendency to overreact just like what happened to residents of a farming village in Jaen, Nueva Ecija where the first community outbreak of A(H1N1) flu was declared.

“This could happen anywhere and to anyone of us. We really don’t know when or where, as of now we only detected one person in that area. All we have to do is observe precautionary measures such as proper and regular washing of hands, cough and sneezing etiquettes and taking vitamins that will protect us from infections,” he added.

The DoH and Iloilo City Health Office (CHO) also advised the public to seek medical help if they suffer from flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and sore throat.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, who is on home quarantine after returning from Boston, Massachusetts in USA, said there is no need to panic after the confirmation of the first A(H1N1) patient in the city.

“We have prepared for this already by informing the public about the precautionary measures and responses. The flu that hit the country and the city is mild and curable,” Treñas said.

Latest report from the DoH said the patient is now recovering after taking medications at the Western Visayas Medical Center.

The family of the patient is also under observation, the DoH said.

AS USUAL

Life is as usual for residents of Dungon-B despite the report that one of their neighbors contracted the A(H1N1) flu.    

Barangay officials said they informed their residents about proper hygienic practices to protect themselves from the virus.

Residents who had close contact with the patient were also advised to undergo home quarantine for at least 10 days for observation.

Punong Barangay Apolinario Dadison Jr. said they are not alarmed by the positive A(H1N1) case in their village.

“We regularly coordinate with the CHO and the DoH and we follow their advisories. Life remains normal for us here,” Dadison said.

Dr. Urminico Baronda, city health officer, lauded the media for continually informing the public on A(H1N1) advisories from the DoH and the CHO.

“The continued information drive will help the people prevent the spread of the virus and respond if they show flu-like symptoms. The rapid increase in the number of cases under observation for A(H1N1) is an indication that the public is very cautious about the situation,” Baronda said. 

FIRST CASE IN CAPIZ

Capiz provincial health officer Jarvis Ponzalan confirmed yesterday that a 38-year-old overseas Filipino worker (OFW) was infected with A(H1N1) virus.

Ponzalan said the report from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) showed that the patient’s throat swab tested positive for A(H1N1) virus.

The OFW arrived from Singapore June 6 and showed flu-like symptoms June 9. The patient’s relatives brought the OFW to the Rural Health Unit and was later referred to the hospital.

The first confirmed A(H1N1) case recorded in the region was a student from La Salle University who went home to Bacolod City before her throat swab result came out.

Two more children in Bacolod City also tested positive for A(H1N1) flu while the 38-year-old seaman is the first confirmed case in Iloilo City.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara C. Yap

 

LOCAL and health officials are monitoring a barangay in Iloilo City where the first positive A(H1N1) case in the city was detected.

The Department of Health (DoH) said the first A(H1N1) flu patient in Iloilo City is a 38-year-old seaman from Jaro district.

The patient traveled from Germany and stopped over Hong Kong before arriving in the country June 1. He showed flu-like symptoms June 9 and was brought to Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) for check-up.

The patient’s throat swab tested positive for A(H1N1) virus, according to results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). He is now in isolation at the WVMC.

Two more positive cases were detected in Bacolod City, the DoH said.

The patients are both males, ages 7 and 8 years old, who came from the United States. They are isolated at the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City.

The patients in Bacolod City have completed their medication and do not show any sign of symptoms anymore. They will be released from home treatment soon if the results of the second swab turn negative.

Since May 1, Western Visayas has recorded 4 positive A(H1N1) cases. The total A(H1N1) infections in the country totaled 311 cases.

Dr. Jessie Glenn Alonsabe, DoH regional epidemiologist, said close monitoring and surveillance are being conducted in the areas where the three new cases were detected.

Alonsabe said the whole family members of the patient were advised to be admitted in the hospital or undergo home quarantine.

“Although they were found positive for the virus, they all showed mild symptoms of fever, cough and sore throat.

Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog said the city government has activated the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTS) to help in the contact tracing and surveillance.

Dr. Urminico Baronda, city health officer, said barangay officials and City Health Office (CHO) personnel are helping trace the persons who came in close contact with seaman.

“There should be no cause for alarm because we are joining hands with the DoH and the City Health Office in containing the virus and prevent a community outbreak. As the statistics show, the mortality rate of A(H1N1) virus is only 0.5% worldwide,” Mabilog said.

The barangay captain of the Iloilo City village where the first A(H1N1) flu patient resided said they learned of the positive case through Dr. Teresita Chu of the CHO.

The barangay official said they met city health officials Wednesday morning to discuss the proper measures to be taken.

He said they will fully cooperate with CHO and the DoH to closely monitor the community.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the barangay hall was transformed into a monitoring station by CHO and DOH 6 personnel.

Any person who came in close contact with the patient is advised to report to health officials at the barangay hall as soon as they exhibit flu-like symptoms. 

Alonsabe said the public should observe hygienic practices such as washing of hands and cough and sneezing etiquette to prevent the virus from spreading.

Alonsabe said the local chief executives in the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo and their respective health officers were informed and provided technical and logistical assistance to prevent community level spread of the flu.

Baronda said the DoH has enough Tamiflu which can help cure the A(H1N1) flu.

“The DoH has the Tamiflu stocks because we are controlling the dispensation of the medicine to avoid the virus from becoming resistant to the drug,” Baronda said.

A recent memorandum from the DoH central office ordered drug stores in the country not to dispense Tamiflu capsules to buyers sans doctor’s prescription.

Alonsabe said the DoH central office also issued a memorandum requiring all private and public hospitals to put isolation areas for A(H1N1) patients.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ASIDE from the possible spread of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, Iloilo City health officials are also monitoring cases of water-borne diseases.

Dr. Urminico Baronda, City Health Office (CHO) chief, said they are closely watching cases of leptospirosis, diarrhea and typhoid fever with the onset of the rainy season.

The CHO has recorded 26 cases of typhoid fever in the city since January including one death.

Baronda said they recorded 77 dengue cases including 8 fatalities since January.

No leptospirosis case has been recorded in the city so far.

The CHO chief told residents to avoid dirty floodwater to minimize possible contraction of leptospirosis, which is spread through rat feces.

Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist in Region 6, said the Department of Health (DoH-6) has raised the white code alert on “WILD” diseases in the region, particularly in the city and province of Iloilo.

The WILD diseases include water-borne diseases such as dysentery, diarrhea, typhoid; influenza including the A (H1N1) flu; leptospirosis; and dengue.

Dengue cases continue to rise with more than 600 recorded cases in Western Visayas as of first week of June.

However, cases recorded in January-June this year are lower compared to the same period in 2008, Alonsabe said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

IT would be better to shelve plans to go out of the country while the world tries to stave off Influenza A (H1N1) infection, an official of the Department of Health (DOH-6) said.

 

Dr. Glenn Alonsabe, Regional Epidemiologist and Surveillance Unit (RESU) head, said Ilonggos should reconsider plans of travelling abroad amidst the spread of the H1N1 virus.

 

“This is to avoid the inconvenience brought about by the screening procedures against Influenza A (H1N1) being done in the airports,” Alonsabe said.

 

Alonsabe also advised the public to discourage their relatives abroad from going back to the Philippines for the meantime.

 

He said Ilonggos abroad who want to come home “should also be responsible and see to it that their health status are cleared before travelling as the first to be affected are their loved ones.”

 

Considered fatal to humans, Influenza A (H1N1) is caused by a novel virus that sprang from the re-assortment of four virus types from pigs, human and birds.

 

Alonsabe said Influenza A (H1N1) cannot be transmitted by eating thoroughly cooked pork.

 

The virus can be transferred via droplets from the cough and sneeze of an infected person.

 

The DOH advised the public to observe coughing etiquette by covering the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.

 

The health agency also encouraged regular washing of hands with soap and water, use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers and avoiding close contact with sick people.

 

The disease can also be prevented through increasing the body’s resistance by having at least 8 hours of sleep, managing stress, drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious food.

 

Influenza A (H1N1) symptoms are fever, headache, fatigue, muscle or joint pains, lack of appetite, runny nose, sore throat and cough.

 

According to the World Health Organization website, 21 countries have reported 1,490 cases of influenza A (H1N1) infection as of May 5.

PERSONNEL of a funeral parlor move the body of foundation official Epi Ramos from the premises of Eon Centennial Plaza Hotel. (FAA)

PERSONNEL of a funeral parlor move the body of foundation official Epi Ramos from the premises of Eon Centennial Plaza Hotel. (FAA)

 

Foundation officer stabbed to death inside room

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WHAT drove two unidentified suspects to stab to death a foundation officer inside a hotel in downtown Iloilo Tuesday?

 

The stab-riddled body of Epi Ramos, of Magallon Street, Cabatuan, Iloilo, was found in Room 404 of Eon Centennial Plaza Hotel on Jalandoni Street, Iloilo City proper.

 

Ramos is the chief executive officer of the Field Epidemiology Training Program Alumni Foundation Inc., a partner organization of the Department of Health (DOH).

 

Edmund Valencia, Centennial general manager, said their housekeeping staff at first noticed water coming out of Ramos’ room.

 

Valencia said Ramos checked in the hotel January 24 to attend a seminar sponsored by his foundation.

 

Fellow workers of Ramos also wondered why the victim failed to get out of his room to attend their seminar that morning.

 

Valencia said they tried to call and knock on Ramos’ room to ask if he left the water faucet open but he did not respond. The management later decided to open the room to check on their resident.

 

The hotel staff found the lifeless Ramos on the bathroom floor.

 

Police investigators said Ramos’ room was in disarray, an indication that the suspects may have rummaged through his personal belongings.

 

The victim’s laptop computer was missing but the police have yet to come up with the final inventory.

 

Scene of the crime operatives said Ramos succumbed to more or less 20 stab wounds mostly in his chest.

 

Supt. Eugenio Espejo, Iloilo City Police Office officer-in-charge, said Ramos last entered his room with two male companions 8:30pm Monday.

 

Espejo said Ramos introduced his companions to the hotel guard as his visitors. The victim’s nephew who also works as his driver also entered his hotel room but later left after a short conversation.

 

“We are looking at two to three suspects in the case. Our investigators are looking at robbery as the motive,” Espejo added.

 

Atty. Plaridel Nava, Centennial Hotel legal counsel, said Ramos knew the suspects reason why he allowed them inside his room.

 

Valencia said they only allow visitors to enter the guest rooms until 10pm. Visitors are also required to indentify themselves at the front desk for security purposes.

 

Valencia said they will cooperate with the police for the speedy resolution of Ramos’ case.

 

“This is the first time that an incident like this happened in our hotel. But it’s still business as usual for us. The management will cooperate with the authorities,” Valencia said. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial government will expedite the purchase of a new cadaver freezer for Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) in Mandurriao, Iloilo after the remains of two persons reportedly emitted foul odor causing discomfort among the staff and patients.

Reports from GMA’s dySI Super Radyo said foul smell emanated from the WVMC morgue past 11pm Wednesday.

Security guards of the hospital said the remains of two persons were deposited inside the morgue after they died Wednesday morning.

But Esther Nievales, WVMC chief administrative officer, denied the report saying no foul smell came from the remains of the dead patients.

A caretaker of the morgue said only one body was deposited inside the facility but it did not smell. The dead person was released to relatives yesterday.

The Daily Guardian tried to reach WVMC director Jose Mari Fermin but he was in General Santos City.

The morgue incident happened days after Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III pledged to help WVMC buy a new freezer.

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada expressed alarm about the latest incident in the WVMC morgue because of the possible health hazard posed by the remains of dead patients.

“We are now fast-tracking the request of the provincial government to Secretary Duque to address the problem by buying a new cadaver freezer. This issue affects the constituents of the province. We can’t afford to sit around and watch the possible health hazards explode in our faces. The situation is like a ticking time bomb and every minute counts,” Mejorada said.  

Mejorada was the one who relayed to Duque last week the request of Fermin to the Iloilo provincial government to help the hospital buy a new cadaver freezer.

Last month, the remains of Leonardo Belleza of Guimaras province also emitted foul smell as the decades-old cadaver freezer conked out. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE formula milk crisis in China once again proves that breast milk is best for your babies.

Department of Health (DOH-6) officer-in-charge Ariel Valencia said their campaign to promote breastfeeding among Filipino mothers got a boost from the ban on China-made infant formula milk and other milk-based products.

“It’s a blessing in disguise for our campaign. Somehow, the China milk crisis stressed our point that breastfeeding is still best for our babies. There is no substitute for a mother’s milk because it is the most complete and safest food we could give our infants,” Valencia said.

Valencia said the China milk crisis should make consumers more wary of the quality and safety of the food they buy.

The DOH official said they will continue their breastfeeding campaign in the light of the China milk crisis.

“Somehow, breastfeeding will become part of our culture because of our advocacy,” Valencia said.

In Manila, Ma. Inez Fernandez, executive director of child care advocacy group Arugaan, said milk controversy in China is only one of the many proofs that milk formula or artificial milk “will not guarantee you food safety at all.”

Fernandez said that before China discovered that Sanlu and other Chinese milk products contained the toxic chemical melamine, there were several top-branded milk products around the world that were ordered recalled.

“Because the milk industry’s technology doesn’t guarantee a 100 percent sterilization,” she said, adding that top milk brands from the around were ordered recalled from 2000 to 2008 because of “industrial errors.”

Fernandez said the microorganism called enterobacter sakazakii, present in several formula milk products, is allegedly a main cause of sepsis or blood poisoning, which kills infants.

A United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) document called “By the number,” said other reasons of milk product recalls around the world are the detection of bacteria, microorganisms, and glass particles.

Meanwhile, Valencia said they are waiting for the specific milk brands banned by the Bureau of Food and Drugs.

Valencia said they are having difficulties in monitoring China milk and milk-based products because there is no specific list. (With reports from abs-cbnnews.com)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THERE is a possibility that melamine-laden milk from China will find its way to Western Visayas.

Thus, the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) urged the public to be vigilant and report the presence China-made milk products in stores around the region.

Delia Tarrosa, chief of BFAD’s Regulation and Enforcement Division, said grocery stores and establishments registered with their office have already pulled out Chinese branded milk products from their shelves.

But banned items can still be sold in stores that are not registered with the BFAD.

“There are small stores that don’t have permits from our office. The local government units are the only ones who can monitor and control these stores who might sell banned items,” Tarrosa said.

Tarrosa said they are also waiting for the consolidated report of their personnel and local governments around the region on the presence of banned China milk products in the local market.

The BFAD official advised consumers not to buy China milk until the agency has cleared the products of melamine contamination.

The food and drug agency will also seek the help of the Bureau of Customs to intercept at entry ports banned milk items from China.

Owners of stores violating the ban will be fined P300,000 and face imprisonment from six months to one year.

In a media advisory, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it is working closely with BFAD in monitoring contaminated milk products in the market.

DTI Undersecretary Zenaida Cuison Maglaya, who is in-charge of the DTI Consumer Welfare and Trade Regulatory Group, said she also directed all DTI regional and provincial Offices to work closely with the Department of Health and local government units (LGUs).

DTI-Iloilo headed by Engr. Wilhelm Malones said they have coordinated with DOH-BFAD, the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA)-Iloilo Chapter, and Iloilo City government in monitoring the entry of banned items.

Francis Chung, PRA-Iloilo president, said none of their chapter members is selling milk products from China allegedly containing melamine.

The BFAD had banned liquid and powdered milk, candy, biscuits, chocolate bars and drinks, and yogurt with dairy components from China.

The ban was imposed amid growing fears over the safety of dairy products made in China where four children have died and more than 50,000 have fallen ill after drinking milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.

Melamine has been found in infant formula and other milk products from 22 of China’s dairy companies. Suppliers trying to cut costs are believed to have added it to water-down milk because its high nitrogen content masks the resulting protein deficiency.

Melamine is a toxic chemical used in the manufacture of plastic and glue products. Several babies in China have died and many are suffering from kidney stones after consuming the contaminated milk.

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