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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A MEASLES outbreak is occurring in Western Visayas, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

Dr. Renilyn Reyes, Regional Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) coordinator of DOH 6, said a total of 41 confirmed cases of measles were recorded in Region 6 as of November 10.

Reyes said this year’s measles cases are higher compared to 2008 with only 4 confirmed cases.

“From 2005 to 2007, we did not have measles cases in Region 6. However, in 2008, there were four laboratory confirmed cases of measles in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental. In 2008, there were no reported measles cases in Iloilo and the rest of Panay Island, but we are sad to note that this year, we have many recorded laboratory confirmed cases,” Reyes said.

DoH-6 data showed that Iloilo province has the most number of measles cases with 33 patients while Iloilo City has 15 cases.

Guimaras has 5 confirmed cases while the provinces of Antique, Capiz and Negros Occidental have one case each.

In Iloilo province, the town of Oton has 5 cases, Pavia 3 and Banate 2.

In Iloilo City, Jaro district has a total of 6 confirmed cases, LaPaz and Mandurriao with 3 cases each while Arevalo, Molo and City Proper have 1 case each.

Reyes said they consider Aklan a silent case as they have not received any suspected or confirmed measles case.

Measles or tipdas is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It affects mostly children although in Capiz a 37-year-old man contracted the infection.

Measles is rapidly transmitted through air or direct contact. It is considered to be a leading cause of childhood mortality in the world.

Measles symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a generalized rash (from head to toe).

Clinical diagnosis of measles requires a history of fever of at least three days together with at least one of the three C’s (cough, coryza, conjunctivitis) and Koplik’s spots.

Reyes said measles in itself is not dangerous but its victims are at risk of immunity suppression which could lead to complications including pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, deafness, ear infection (bulaho), diarrhea and dehydration,


Reyes said low or lack of measles immunization coverage in Western Visayas may have been the cause of resurgence of measles in the region.

Reyes said the health department eyed to eliminate measles through massive vaccination which began in the 1980s.

While measles vaccination coverage in the country reached 91% of the target population, it was still below the 95% benchmark to terminate the infection.

“We believe that there has been an accumulation of susceptible persons which led to the resurgence of the infection,” Reyes said.

DoH-6 recommended massive vaccination for children as early as 6 months old. But a repeat vaccination should be given when the child reaches 9 months old to ensure the affectivity of the vaccine.

Another dose of measles vaccination for children 15-23 months old will be administered to halt virus transmission among susceptible children. Children under 2 years old are most vulnerable to measles complications.

Children under 5 years old who defaulted on their vaccination must also undergo the immunization process.

The health agency also recommended vitamin A supplementation to children 6 months to 71 months old.

Reyes said free measles vaccination is available in health centers all over the region “and our residents should avail of this program to protect their children.”

The DoH also encouraged the public to report any suspected measles cases in their locality for early detection and management.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A TOTAL of 61 cases of Influenza A(H1N1) virus infection were recorded in Western Visayas from May 18 to August 1, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

The cases were confirmed by laboratory results from the Research Institute for

Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The DoH data said the patients ranged from a 9-month-old baby to a 54-year-old adult. The median age of the patients is 20 years old.

Most of the cases belonged to the 10 to 19 age group. A total of 33 patients, or 54%, are male.

Ninety three percent (94%) are Filipinos while the rest are Americans and Japanese.

A total of 30 cases (49%) have traveled outside the country while the remaining cases were close contacts of confirmed Influenza A H1N1 cases.

Of the patients who traveled to countries affected with A(H1N1) flu, 12 cases (40%)

came from United States, 5 cases (17%) from China, 4 cases (14%) from Japan, 3 cases (10%) from United Kingdom, 2 cases (7%) from Saudi Arabia while 4 patients came from Australia, Panama, Singapore and Sweden.

Majority of A(H1N1) cases in Western Visayas were recorded in Iloilo province (15) and Roxas City (13).

Bacolod City has 12 cases while Iloilo City has 11.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE number of persons in Western Visayas under observation for possible Influenza A(H1N1) virus infection continues to mount, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

Data from the DoH-6 as of Thursday said 7 more persons were considered cases under observation (CUO) for showing flu-like symptoms. This brings to 71 the total number of CUOs since May 18 to June 25, 2009.

Of the total CUOs, 8 persons tested positive for influenza A (H1N1) while 17 were found negative.

The laboratory results of the remaining 46 CUOs are still pending with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The 8 confirmed cases, are from Bacolod City (4), Talisay City in Negros Occidental (1), Iloilo City (1), and Capiz (2).

Five A(H1N1) patients have been released from the hospital while the remaining 3 are still under medication.

Based on DoH guidelines, a person is considered a CUO if they fall under the following criteria:

–         Anyone with influenza-like illness (ILI) with history of travel to a country with laboratory-confirmed case/s of A (H1N1) in the past 10 days;

–         Anyone with ILI who has close contact with a confirmed A (H1N1) case within 10 days of onset of symptoms.

A CUO or suspect case of A(H1N1) flu will be subject for laboratory testing by the RITM.

Patients who do not meet the criteria are advised to consult their doctor for assessment of other illnesses.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) will support the DoH should it require police assistance in conducting quarantine activities.

In a statement, C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said additional police officers may be detailed to airports and seaports if the DoH seeks their help.

“We already have personnel assigned at airports and seaports for this purpose. And we can still add more officers if necessary,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said he reminded police officers to take extra precautions to avoid contracting the flu.

“We also remind our police personnel to observe the standard operating procedures (SOPs) once they are confined in hospitals. They have to inform their chiefs of police immediately upon confinement. The PRO-6 Regional Health Service must also be informed to assist and make follow-up of their status,” Cuevas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


A FOREIGNER based in Negros Occidental is the latest A(H1N1) flu patient, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6) regional office.

DoH-6’s official website said the latest A(H1N1) flu patient is a 1-year-old Japanese male who arrived in Talisay, Negros Occidental.

The patient arrived in the country June 11, 2009 and manifested flu-like systems June 13.

He was admitted in a private hospital in Bacolod City June 16. Swab samples of patient were taken June 17 and immediately sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

DoH-6 received yesterday the report from RITM confirming that the patient is positive for A(H1N1) virus.

The Talisay City Health Office has started tracing persons who had close contact with the Japanese national.

Western Visayas now has 8 confirmed Influenza A (H1N1) cases, including the latest patient from Negros Occidental. 

Five patients have been discharged while three are still under medication.

Personnel from the DoH-6 and Iloilo City Health Office (CHO) also mounted contact tracing in Assumption Iloilo where one of its high school student tested positive for A(H1N1) flu.

The DoH learned that the 14-year-old student, who is a native of Roxas City, stayed at the Assumption dormitory along with 9 other students.

The DoH-6 has taken throat swab samples of the 9 Assumption students for testing in RITM.

Assumption school officials have suspended classes until July 6 in keeping with the guidelines issued by the DoH.

The DoH recommended that Assumption students, faculty and staff stay at home and monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of influenza-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or sore throat.

They are advised to seek consultation when the said mentioned signs and symptoms are observed so they can be assessed properly.

They are also advised to constantly observe proper hygienic practices such as hand washing with soap and water and cough and sneezing etiquette.

As of yesterday, a total of 64 persons are under observation for flu-like symptoms.

Among the new cases under observation (CUOs) are the classmates of the Assumption student. 

The DoH data also said that 17 CUOs were negative for A (H1N1) while 39 patients are still waiting for laboratory results from the RITM.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap


A CATHOLIC elementary and high school in Iloilo City suspended its classes after one of its students tested positive for Influenza A(H1N1) virus.

Assumption School along General Luna Street sent home its students past 1pm Tuesday after the Department of Health (DoH-6) confirmed that one of its students contracted A(H1N1) flu.

The female student, the seventh confirmed A(H1N1) patient in Western Visayas, is a native of Roxas City.

She complained of fever when she went home to Roxas City over the weekend. She was found positive for the flu based on her swab test from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, DoH-6 regional epidemiologist, said in a press conference with Mayor Jerry Treñas that the patient went home to Roxas City. She is presently confined in a private hospital.

Alonsabe said they are conducting contact tracing of persons who got close to the patient. They are also verifying whether the patient traveled abroad.

The DoH suggested to Sister Fidelis Estrada, Assumption School principal, to immediately suspend their classes for 10 days.

Alonsabe said the suspension will immediately allow health authorities to conduct contact tracing and for the school to help monitor the health status of their students.

Assumption administration officials met after the press conference to discuss DoH’s suggestion.

Parents who heard the news flocked the Assumption campus to fetch their children. Before they were released, school officials held a briefing with the pupils and students regarding the positive A(H1N1) case.

Iloilo City Councilor Joe Espinosa III was one of the concerned parents who rushed to Assumption Iloilo after hearing the news.

Espinosa, who has three children enrolled in the Catholic school, handed out masks to other parents and carried a rubbing alcohol as disinfectant.

Asked if he is alarmed, Espinosa was quick to say that he is not. “DOH has assured that this is a milder form of virus.”

The councilor urged the public to take extra precautionary measures such as proper hand washing and cough and sneezing etiquette to avoid catching the flu.

Other parents were concerned why their children were gathered inside the air-conditioned room for the briefing which could increase their risk of exposure to the virus.

The influx of parents and nannies who rushed to the Catholic school caused a major traffic along Gen. Luna Street from 11am until 1:30pm.

Around noontime, the school sent out letters advising parents that classes in elementary and high school levels were suspended starting Tuesday and will resume July 6.

The letter also advised the parents to let their children stay at home for three days as a precautionary measure.

Assumption school is located across Iloilo Central Elementary School which has more than 2,000 students.

Treñas said there is no need to panic because DoH has medicines for the flu which is considered a mild strain.

Treñas urged the public to observe proper hygienic practices to prevent the virus from spreading.

Western Visayas has now 50 cases under observation and 7 positive cases. The referral hospitals are the Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City, Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City, other government hospitals in the region and all other private hospitals.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE third and fourth quarters of 2009 are critical periods for the tourism sector in Western Visayas amid the Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic.

Edwin Trompeta, regional director of the Department of Tourism in Western Visayas, said the gains of the tourism sector in the first two quarters might be affected because of the pandemic.

“We noted growth in tourist arrivals in the region, particularly Boracay Island, in the first and second quarters of this year. We see the third and fourth quarters as very critical because of the flu,” Trompeta said.

Trompeta said traditional tourism markets such as the US and Europe are also being cautious because of the A(H1N1) flu.

Boracay was the second top tourist destination in the country with 158,030 arrivals from January to March 2009.

The island resort also drew the second highest number of foreign tourists of 63,903.

Cebu was the top tourist destination in the country according to a DoT report for the first four months of the year.

Overall, the volume of domestic tourists visiting key destinations grew faster at 13% while foreign arrivals recorded a 4% increase in the first quarter.

Trompeta said that among the island-resorts, Boracay remains the top tourist drawer with tourist arrivals growing by an average of 6% annually for the past decade.

Boracay boosted its room capacity with the opening of the Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa, a high-end 217-room resort on the island.

“We are hoping that the pandemic will slow down and have no effect on the tourism sector which continues to make positive ratings despite the global economic recession,” Trompeta said.

The DoH has been closely watching the situation in Boracay in coordination with the local government unit of Aklan and Malay town.

The DoH and DoT recently conducted an orientation on A(H1N1) flu to help businesses and other stakeholders respond to the pandemic.

Latest data from the Department of Health said 14 cases under observation for A(H1N1) flu were recorded in Western Visayas.

The total confirmed cases jumped to 6 patients after an 20-year-old American missionary in Bacolod City tested positive for the A(H1N1) virus.

The missionary arrived June 9 and showed flu-like symptoms June 14.

The patient has been discharged from the hospital after showing signs of improvement.

Since May 18, DoH-6 has recorded 43 cases under observation (CUOs). A total of 14 patients found negative for the flu while 6 tested positive for the virus.

The test results of the remaining 23 patients are still pending with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

Iloilo recorded the highest number of CUOs with 24, Negros Occidental (15), Aklan (2) and Capiz (2).

Of the total CUOs recorded, 35 are Filipinos and 8 foreigners including 21 males and 22 females. The age of the CUOs ranges from 2 to 89 years old, the DoH said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


PRAYERS and precautionary measures are the Catholic Church’s contribution to the fight against the spread of the Influenza A(H1N1) virus in Western Visayas and the rest of he country.

Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo issued a circular to all parishes, clergy and religious orders in Jaro Archdiocese to help prevent A(H1N1) flu.

Lagdameo said the circular is based on the advisory issued by the Commission on Liturgy in the Archdiocese.

The Church’s A(H1N1) advisory urged priests to give the Holy Communion during masses by hand. Holding of hands will not be allowed during the Lord’s Prayer. Instead of kissing and hand shaking, churchgoers are urged to make a simple nod for the giving of Peace.

Holy Water stoups or vessels shall be emptied of Holy Water. Church-goers are advised just to make the sign of the Cross upon entering and going out of the church.

Priests and lay ministers distributing Communion during the Mass must wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizers before and after the Mass.

The commission also provided petitions to be added to the Prayers of the Faithful to stave off the infection.

The prayers are:

– “That the Lord will heal the sick brought about by the A (H1N1) Virus.  That God will grant wisdom to Doctors so that they may find a cure that will stop the spread of the disease.  Let us pray to the Lord.”

– May god strengthen us and assure us in our fears.  May he grant healing to those afflicted with the A (H1N1) Virus.  And may he send us his help and protection.  Let us pray to the Lord.

“I exhort all the Clergy, the Religious and all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Jaro to take into consideration this advisory,” Lagdameo said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Department of Health (DoH) recommended the closure of more than 30 water wells in Brgy. Calajunan, Mandurriao, Iloilo for Escherichia coli (E. coli) contamination.

Dr. Glenn Alonsabe, DoH regional epidemiologist, said water wells in the village are contaminated because of the presence of the city dumpsite.

Alonsabe their study show that the wells are tainted with E. coli bacteria which came from human waste.

E. coli is a gram negative bacterium commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded animals.

Harmful E. coli strains produce a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness. The bacteria can be found on a small number of cattle farms and can live in the intestines of healthy cattle.

E. coli infection often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. However, sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea or no symptoms at all.  Usually there is little or no fever, and the illness goes away in 5-10 days.

In some persons, particularly children under 5 years of age and the elderly, the infection can also cause a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney failure.

Alonsabe said other harmful bacteria that contaminated the wells can cause diarrhea, typhoid fever and hepatitis in Calajunan residents.

Punong Barangay Carmencita Meniel of Calajunan said there are 38 wells in their village “but these are used for washing clothes, not for drinking.”

Meniel said some of their residents don’t want to close their wells because they have no alternative water sources.

Atty. Hector Teodosio of the Global Legal Action on Climate Change said they are planning to sue the city government if it fails to convert the dumpsite into a sanitary landfill.

Teodosio said they are concerned with leachate or the liquid that drains from the dumpsite. He said the liquid is affecting water sources in Calajunan.

Last summer, the DoH’s Hospital, Environmental and Occupational Health division reported that 4 out of 6 deep wells in Iloilo province tested positive for E. coli contamination.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE first Influenza A (H1N1) case in Western Visayas was recorded in Bacolod City, the Department of Health (DoH-6) regional office said.


Information from the DoH-6 said the 17-year-old female patient went home to Bacolod City after she was exposed and infected in De La Salle University in Metro Manila.


The National Epidemiology Center informed the DoH-6 about the patient last June 9.


The patient was admitted in a private hospital in Metro Manila because of fever but was later discharged after showing signs of improvement. She then went home to Bacolod City.


But it was later learned from the patient’s laboratory test that she was infected with A (H1N1) virus.


The DoH then ordered the regional office to trace the patient in Bacolod City and bring her to the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) in Bacolod City.


The DoH regional office said the patient underwent self quarantine at home upon arrival in Bacolod City.


“The patient is being managed accordingly and given treatment by an infectious disease specialist at Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital in Bacolod City. The case has mild symptoms and is doing well,” the DoH report said.


The health department said family members and close contacts of the patient were also identified and advised to monitor themselves for any signs of illness within the 10-day observation period.


“They were advised to report to DoH-CDH-WV or CLMMRH if they manifest signs and symptoms of A (H1N1),” the health department added.


Local officials in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental were also informed about the positive A (H1N1) case.


The DoH provided the local government units with technical and logistical assistance to prevent a community outbreak of the flu.


Nationwide, the DoH announced hursday that 15 more Filipinos have been infected with the influenza A(H1N1) virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Philippines to 92.


Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the 15 cases are “all mild in nature.” Four of them travelled to Japan, Singapore, Mexico, and the United States.


Duque said “contact tracing of said new cases is on-going.”


He said 32 of the 92 infected patients have fully recovered from the virus and have been sent home.


As of June 10, the WHO said there were already 27,737 confirmed cases and 141 deaths from 74 reporting countries. The latest country to report A (H1N1) is Ukraine.


In Western Visayas, the DoH-6 monitored 13 CUOs since May 18. Eight CUOs tested negative for A (H1N1) infection while five cases have pending laboratory results.


Dr. Ariel Valencia, DoH regional director, they have put in place measures that will prevent A (H1N1) outbreak in Western Visayas.


“The public is advised to observe hygienic practices such as proper hand washing and couch and sneezing etiquette. It is also advised that persons who have flu-like symptoms and have recently travelled to affected countries should seek consultations with the nearest health facility,” Valencia said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


DENGUE cases in the city and province of Iloilo continue to rise, data from health offices show.


In Iloilo province, the Provincial Health Office (PHO) recorded 112 dengue cases with one fatality since January.


This week alone, the PHO monitored 33 cases, said Dr. Patricia Grace Trabado, provincial health officer.


The towns of Cabatuan and Oton topped the list with six cases each, Tigbauan with five cases while San Joaquin, Guimbal and Pototan have three cases each.


The towns of Miag-ao and Sta. Barbara reported two dengue cases each while Dueñas and Passi City have one case each.


The lone fatality in the province came from the town of Guimbal, the PHO said.


In Iloilo City, dengue rose from 45 cases last month to 54 this week, City Health Office (CHO) chief Urminico Baronda said.


Baronda said dengue has claimed 7 lives since January 2009. The latest fatality is a resident of Brgy. Hughes, Iloilo City proper.


The CHO recorded 26 dengue cases for the January-May 2008 period.


Baronda said most of the cases, particularly the fatalities, are concentrated in the Waterfront area.


Dr. Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist of the Department of Health-6, said dengue cases in Western Visayas are low compared to last year’s record for the same period.


“Although we have already reported some deaths in Iloilo City, it is 40% lower compared to the cases we had last year,” Alonsabe said.


Alonsabe said the public should continue the 4 o’clock habit and observe the “4-S” approach against dengue which includes search and destroy mosquito-breeding sites; self-protection measures; seeking early treatment; and saying no to indiscriminate fogging.


The dengue virus is contracted from the bite of the striped Aedes aegypti mosquito that has previously bitten an infected person.


The mosquito flourishes during rainy seasons but can breed in water-filled flower pots, plastic bags, and cans year-round, said Alonsabe.


The public must also get rid of old tires, bottles, bottle caps, cans and other containers where clean stagnant water is collected as these serve as breeding places for dengue-carrying mosquitoes.


The disease manifests as a sudden onset of severe headache, muscle and joint pains, fever, and rash.


The dengue rash is characteristically bright red petechiae and usually appears first on the lower limbs and the chest. In some patients, it spreads to cover most of the body.


There may also be gastritis with some combination of associated abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


ANTONIO Pedrola, 8, of Jaro, Iloilo City, a Grade 2 elementary pupil, has a new addition to his balun (recess kit): a bottle of hand sanitizer.


Pedrola also has facial mask which he must wear when going to school and back home.


Sanitizers and masks are part of the precautionary measures adopted by parents as some 55,000 elementary pupils and 22 high school students in Western Visayas return to school today amid the Influenza A (H1N1) and dengue fever scare.


As of Saturday, the Department of Health (DoH) announced that two more persons tested positive for H1N1 flu, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the Philippines to 16.


Dengue fever also claimed the lives of 7 patients mostly children in Iloilo City since January 2009.


Parents fear their children might be infected by these two dreaded diseases thus the precautionary measures.


Pedrola said he is afraid because one of his classmates might have spent summer in areas where H1N1 flu occurred.


Mildred Garay, Department of Education (DepEd) regional director, said the DoH did not recommend the suspension of classes despite the H1N1 flu and dengue fever scare.


DepEd and DoH have announced that the government will implement a new alert system for the cancellation of classes due to the rising number of confirmed H1N1 cases in the country.


The critical alert signal starts at Level 3, which means there is a confirmed case in a school and a sudden increase in absenteeism due to flu. Classes in a school with a Level 3 alert have to be suspended.


The highest alert signal is Level 4, where there is more than one school with confirmed H1N1 infection within a community.


“There is no community outbreak yet, thus the opening of classes will continue,” Garay said.


Garay advised parents to not to send their children to school if they suffer from fever or flu-like symptoms.


Garay said they also required schools heads to provide wash areas for students.


“We issued guidelines stressing the importance of proper and regular washing of hands and observance of cough and sneezing etiquette. We also required teachers to conduct orientation on H1N1 flu and dengue to the students,” Garay said.


The DepEd also coordinated with the PNP in securing schools today.


S/Supt. Melvin Mongcal, Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) director, said their OPLAN Balik Paaralan includes the deployment of uniformed police and plainclothes intelligence operatives around Iloilo City.


PNP personnel will be deployed near schools even as Mongcal appealed to the public to be vigilant against criminals.


The six police stations under the ICPO will also conduct patrols in their respective areas of responsibility.


The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will monitor the implementation of 20-percent discount on student’s fare.


The Department of Transportation and Communication ordered the LTFRB to watch after public utility vehicles that don’t comply with the discount.


The memorandum was issued after the LTFRB received complaints from students regarding the non-compliance of several drivers with the student’s discount.


Porfirio Clavel, LTFRB 6 regional director, said they will monitor public utility jeepneys (PUJs) during the opening of classes.


Clavel warned drivers to give the discount to students lest they will be penalized for overcharging.


A PUJ driver caught violating would be penalized P1,000 on the first offense.


The LTFRB said the minimum fare for students in Western Visayas is currently set at P5.20

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


CATHOLIC faithful, particularly children, in the parish of Mandurriao, Iloilo City will have to refrain from kissing the hands of their priest.


Fr. Espiridion “Boy” Celiz, Mandurriao parish priest, said he asked parishioners, especially children, to refrain from kissing his hands to as part of precautionary measures against Influenza A (H1N1) virus.


Celiz said he might become a transmitter of the virus if an infected faithful kisses his hands.


“We have to take precaution because the symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to common flu,” Celiz said.


Celiz said he also directed church caretakers to wipe church pews to minimize germs and viruses.


While the Catholic Church has yet to issue a definitive rule on holding of hands during mass, particularly in praying Our Father, Celiz said he already advised his parishioners that there is no need to hold each other’s hands.


“The Church does not require that we hold hands when praying Our Father,” he added.


He also discouraged churchgoers from kissing and wiping religious images with their handkerchief as part of precautionary measures.


Celiz also discouraged kissing and handshaking each other during the “kiss of peace” in Mass.


“The kiss of peace can be done with a simple nod of the head instead of kissing the cheeks or shaking hands with other churchgoers,” Celiz said.


The Department of Health advised the public to observe social distancing to prevent the spread of H1N1 flu virus in the country.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


SCHOOLS will open as scheduled on June 1 despite the confirmed cases of influenza A (H1N1) in the country, according to the Department of Health (DoH).


Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, DoH regional epidemiologist, said their central office has yet to recommend the postponement of the opening of classes next week because there is no community outbreak of the flu yet.


Alonsabe said the DoH can help the Department of Education (DepEd) take precautionary measures and mount information campaign against H1N1 flu and other diseases afflicting students.


The League of Cities of the Philippines is mulling to recommend a nationwide postponement of the opening of classes on June 1 to monitor students returning from infected countries.


The Regional Disaster Coordinating Council will meet today in Camp Delgado to discuss precautionary measures against the flu under the DoH stewardship.


The DepEd central office has released a memorandum to intensify awareness drives and monitoring to prevent the H1N1 virus in schools.


The memorandum orders the creation of Anti-Influenza A (H1N1) Task Forces in the regional, division and district levels. It also orders school health and nutrition personnel to disseminate information about the virus to pupils and teachers. The memorandum comes with a four-page information sheet about the virus.


The memorandum, signed by DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus, also ordered the establishment of H1N1 hotlines in all regional and division offices.


It orders teachers to work with their communities and local officials in the information drive and in identifying “residents of the community who have come from any H1N1-affected country/area.”


The DoH has confirmed two A (H1N1) cases. The first positive case was a 10-year-old girl who arrived in the country from the United States on May 18.


The second H1N1 patient is a 50-year-old female from Chicago, United States. She arrived in the Philippines on May 20.


The DoH said both patients showed improved conditions after undergoing treatment.


The Iloilo City government will mount a half-day advocacy and awareness forum seminar on H1N1 flu Thursday.


The forum, which is sponsored by a pharmaceutical company’s foundation, will cover topics to include briefing on A/H1N1, practical measures to protect and treatment, business contingency planning for critical utilities and current government efforts and plans.


Mayor Jerry Treñas said the City government’s advocacy campaign is on “full blast” as part of precautionary measures.


The City Health Office (CHO) also conducted a briefing with barangay health workers in the city.


Treñas said leaflets and flyers will be distributed to 180 barangays in the city.

By Tara Yap


THE woman from Aklan tested negative for influenza A virus (H1N1).


“We got the result of the swab sample Wednesday afternoon.  It was negative,” DOH 6 regional director Dr. Ariel Valencia told The Daily Guardian.


The result was forwarded to Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC), which serves as the designated hospital in Panay for H1N1 case under observation (CUO), from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.


Dr. Valencia added the patient was discharged from the hospital as soon as the result was released.


The woman arrived in the Philippines May 12 for a vacation in her hometown of Balete in Aklan province.  She resides in Daly City, California. United States is one of the countries with positive H1N1 cases.


She was quarantined in WVMC May 18 after exhibiting symptoms of suspected H1N1 including fever and cough for four days. 


Meanwhile, Dr. Valencia reiterated DOH’s call to the public to remain calm and not panic.


He also urged the public, especially Filipinos coming home from countries where there are positive cases of H1N1, to remain vigilant.


“They should be aware of the health advisory and follow the protocol set by the Bureau of Quarantine once they arrive in the country,” Dr. Valencia stressed.


Moreover, Dr. Valencia is preparing for the regional meeting of the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) on May 26.  The agenda includes readiness of difference government agencies in beefing up safety measures and proper handling of persons suspected to be infected with H1N1.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Department of Health (DoH) and Boracay Foundation, Inc. (BFI) will mount a briefing on influenza A (H1N1) May 18 to prepare Boracay Island against the spread of the disease.


Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist of DoH in Western Visayas, said the BFI and Department of Tourism (DoT) requested their office to hold the briefing because of the influx of foreign tourists in the island resort.


“We consider Boracay Island and the municipality of Malay as a critical point in our surveillance on the entry of A H1N1 flu in Western Visayas because of the airport and jetty port in Caticlan. The business community must be educated on the virus and how to react should there be suspected cases of infection,” Alonsabe said.


The Kalibo airport also caters to bi-weekly flights of Mandarin Airlines from Tapei to Kalibo, the capital town of Aklan province.


Dr. Adrian Salaver, Malay municipal health officer, said the briefing is part of their A (H1N1) flu preparation plan aside from monitoring foreigners bound for Boracay.


The Kalibo municipal government has requested for the installation of a thermal scanner at the airport.


But Lino Gregorio, chief of the Bureau of Quarantine regional office, said this is not feasible because the airport’s design will affect the sensors of the scanner.


“For the meantime, the thermal scanner is not feasible because of the humid environment in the Kalibo Airport. It should be placed in an air-conditioned area to monitor the temperatures of incoming passengers from regional flights,” Gregorio said.


The Kalibo airport is constructing a new passenger terminal building which is expected to operate October 2009.


Boracay Island is the country’s second top tourist destination for the first four months of 2009.


DoT data show that 158,030 tourists, including 63,903 foreign visitors, went to Boracay in the first quarter of this year.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE city and provincial governments in Iloilo and the Department of Health (DoH) are mounting massive information and monitoring efforts to prevent the entry of the influenza A H1N1 virus.


Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas met DoH officials headed by Dr. Ariel Valencia at the provincial capitol to discuss and consolidate their actions as the virus spreads in parts of Asia.


Treñas said the City Government will put up a task force similar to what they did during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) epidemic years back. 


The City Health Office headed by Dr. Urminico Baronda will distribute fact sheets on H1N1 flu virus in all 180 city villages and health centers.


“We will create public awareness because it is important that the people will know what this disease is all about. We will be coordinating with the provincial government to avoid overlapping of functions,” Treñas said.


Dr. Patricia Grace Trabado, Iloilo provincial health officer, said they will activate the Barangay Health Emergency Response Team that will monitor persons showing signs and symptoms of H1N1 influenza.


“We will create a master list of persons who came back home from abroad, particularly areas where cases of H1N1 influenza were recorded,” Trabado said.


The provincial government will also ask for flight manifest of airlines landing on the new Iloilo airport in Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara towns to monitor the entry of persons who came home from abroad.


Valencia said there is no need for thermal scanners at the Iloilo airport to check passengers with fever because only local flights arrive at the airport.


“We will strictly monitor the Kalibo and Caticlan airports where foreigners land en route to Boracay Island. We would need the cooperation of the local government to check on arriving tourists in Aklan. We are using forehead thermal strips to test foreign passengers if they have fever,” Valencia said.


Dr. Lino Gregorio, Bureau of Quarantine chief, said crewmembers of international vessels are being checked for fever using the forehead thermal strip.


Gregorio said international vessels are made to anchor near the coast of Nueva Valencia, Guimaras for the routine check. If the crew is cleared by quarantine officers, the ship will be allowed to dock at the Iloilo international port in Brgy. Loboc, LaPaz, Iloilo City.


Suspected cases of H1N1 flu infection should be reported to the DoH and Western Visayas Medical Center which is the referral hospital for infectious diseases.


Dr. Jose Mari Fermin, WVMC medical director, said a response team with personal protection equipment will handle the transport of suspected H1N1 patients.


Fermin said that if the infection reaches the epidemic stage, other patients who don’t suffer from H1N1 flu will be evacuated to another hospital.


“If our manpower is not enough, we can pull out workers from other hospitals using the police powers of the DoH during epidemics,” Fermin said.


If the patients test positive for H1N1 flu, they will be isolated in the infectious diseases ward of WVMC. The tests can be confirmed by the Regional Institute for Tropical Medicine in Metro Manila or Center for Disease Control in the US.


Trabado said local government units should dedicate an ambulance for transporting suspected H1N1 patients.


The DoH also has enough stocks of Tamiflu and other flu medication to be administered to suspected H1N1 cases.


Valencia discouraged self medication as H1N1 flu virus can become resistant to common flu treatments.


Valencia said their response is similar to the protocol they prepared and used during the Sars and avian flu epidemic.


“We will also hold regular briefings with the media to inform the public about the latest in H1N1 pandemic,” Valencia said.




Tupas said he was alarmed by the statement of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. that six Ilonggos who are suspected of H1N1 infection evaded thermal scanners at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and flew back to Iloilo.


Tupas said the information should have been verified first to avoid panic in the province.


Valencia said it’s impossible for passengers to evade thermal scanners “which are placed strategically in the airport.”


Valencia said they are validating the report even as they assured that Iloilo remains free of the flu.


“Those patients who showed signs of fever but tested negative for H1N1 flu were given advise on what to do. Nobody can slip past the scanners because we are strictly monitoring the airports,” Valencia said.


Three natives of Barotac Nuevo who were quarantined after showing signs of fever were allowed to go home after they were cleared of the flu.




The H1N1 flu is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease usually found in pigs that spread and infected humans through tiny particles in the air or by direct contact.


The World Health Organization (WHO) said pork products are still safe to eat as long as these were properly processed and cooked at 70 degrees centigrade.


Dr. Glen Alonsabe, Regional Epidemiological and Surveillance Unit chief, said H1N1 virus cannot survive long outside the human body and is vulnerable to high temperatures and medications such as Oseltamivir and Zanamivir.


H1N1 outbreaks have been identified in Mexico and United States. South Korea and Hong Kong were the first Asian countries to report suspected H1N1 cases.


The Philippines remains free of the flu, according to the DoH and the Department Agriculture.


The signs and symptoms of H1N1 flu include fever, nasal discharge, cough, headache, body or joints pains, sudden onset of respiratory distress and cyanosis.


To prevent infection, here are some tips:


– Stay away from people who have cough and colds especially those known to raise pigs or have pigs in their backyards;


– Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or when in front of people who have cough and colds;


– Always wash your hands before handling food and after doing some dirty work particularly after handling soiled clothes or linen, and after taking care of sick persons;


– Use protective mask and clothing when handling persons sick with flu; and


– Report to any health center or hospital any person suspected to have signs and symptoms of flu particularly those persons who just came from other countries. (With reports from City Hall PIO)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE prolonged dry spell might be the reason why some deep wells in the city and province of Iloilo were contaminated with Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria.


Board member Macario Napulan (1st district), who is a medical doctor by profession, said the extended dry season resulted in lower water volume in deep wells, increasing the concentration of E. coli bacteria in the water.


“The water volume in the well decreased but E. coli concentration remained the same, resulting in the contamination,” Napulan said.


The Department of Health’s (DOH) Hospital, Environmental and Occupational Health division earlier reported that 4 out of 6 deep wells in Iloilo province tested positive for E. coli contamination.


These wells are located in the towns of Pavia, Leganes, Concepcion and Miag-ao where Napulan resides.


Napulan, chair of the provincial board’s committee on health, said the DOH finding is validated by the sudden surge of acute gastroenteritis cases in their town.


“In my own clinic, of the 20 patients who seek medical help, 3-4 persons are suffering from lupot or acute gastroenteritis. This is also true in other clinics and hospitals,” Napulan said.


E. coli is a gram negative bacterium commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded animals.


Harmful E. coli strains produce a powerful toxin that can cause severe illness. The bacteria can be found on a small number of cattle farms and can live in the intestines of healthy cattle.


E. coli infection often causes severe bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. However, sometimes the infection causes non-bloody diarrhea or no symptoms at all.  Usually there is little or no fever, and the illness goes away in 5-10 days.


In some persons, particularly children under 5 years of age and the elderly, the infection can also cause a complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney failure.




Napulan said E. coli can also trigger amoebiasis which is endemic the Philippines with 4 out of 10 Filipinos carrying the amoeba.


Amoebiasis refers to infection caused by the amoeba Entamoeba histolytica which is estimated to cause 70,000 deaths per year world wide. Symptoms of amoebiasis can range from mild diarrhea to dysentery with blood and mucus in the stool.


“When E. coli enters the body, it can imbalance the intestinal flora and trigger the increase of the parasite which causes amoebiasis. The infection will eventually lead to the ulceration of the intestines that is why the feces or waste of people infected with amoebiasis have blood,” Napulan said.


Severe amoebiasis infections (known as invasive or fulminant amoebiasis) occur in two major forms. Invasion of the intestinal lining causes amoebic dysentery or amoebic colitis.


If the parasite reaches the bloodstream it can spread through the body, most frequently ending up in the liver where it causes amoebic liver abscesses. Liver abscesses can occur without previous development of amoebic dysentery.


Napulan said the DOH should mount an information campaign on how to prevent E. coli contamination and the potential diseases it will cause.


“I strongly suggest that we should boil our drinking water 15-30 minutes to make sure that contaminants will be eliminated. Contaminated wells must be chlorinated. If we are in doubt of the purity of our water sources, municipal health centers and the DOH can assist in the examination of these sources,” he added. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


THE Iloilo City police are gathering more information on the identities of the suspects who stabbed to death a ranking official of a Department of Health (DOH)-affiliated foundation.


Chief Insp. Conrado Carganillo, Iloilo City police station 1 chief, said they are looking at two suspects in the murder of Epi Ramos, chief executive officer of the Field Epidemiology Training Program Alumni Foundation Inc., a partner organization of the DOH.


Ramos, 37, of Magallon Street, Cabatuan, Iloilo, was found dead inside Room 404 of Eon Centennial Plaza Hotel on Jalandoni Street, Iloilo City proper Tuesday morning.


He succumbed to more than 20 stab wounds in his chest and head.


The victim checked in the hotel January 24 for a seminar on diseases identification mounted by their foundation in behalf of the DOH.


Citing the initial information they gathered from the victim’s associates, Carganillo said the Ramos knew the suspects because he allowed them inside his room between 8:30 pm and 9 pm Monday.


Carganillo said robbery is the main motive in the crime because of the missing items and cash from Ramos’ room.


Missing from Ramos’ room was more than P100,000 registration fee of the seminar participants, two laptop computers, two cellphones and the victim’s wallet containing undetermined amount of cash.


Carganillo said they have yet to get more information from security Jeffrey Lagayan who was on duty at the hotel entrance Monday evening.


Lagayan said he saw two young males leave the hotel premises around 1am Tuesday. One male wore a brown shirt while the other was clad in a black shirt.


Lagayan said he can only identify the two persons by their body build as he failed to clearly see their faces.


Carganillo said their investigation could have been easier if the hotel management had records of their guests’ visitors.


But investigators are pinning their hopes on the fingerprints found be scene of crime operatives inside Ramos’ room.


Ramos graduated valedictorian from Cabatuan National Comprehensive High School in 1988. He once worked as a medical technologist of the Cabatuan Rural Health Unit.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


FIRECRACKER injuries during the New Year Eve celebration in 2008 went down by almost 50 percent, according to the Police Regional Office (PRO-6).


PRO-6 director Isagani Cuevas said the PNP recorded only 42 cases of firecracker injuries in Western Visayas, 47% lower compared to 79 cases in 2007.


Cuevas attributed the low firecracker injuries to heavy rains December 31, the economic crisis and the government’s “Iwas Paputok Program” which seeks to discourage the public from using firecrackers during New Year’s Eve.


But the Department of Health-6 has yet to come up with its own record of firecracker injuries culled by the Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City and Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital in Bacolod City.


Senior Supt. Ricardo dela Paz, Iloilo Provincial Police Office (IPPO) director, said it is also possible that some minor New Year-related injuries were not reported or referred to hospitals.


If firecracker injuries decreased, stray bullet incidents in Iloilo City rose to 19 cases based on latest data from the Iloilo City Police Office despite warnings by the police and the DOH.


Cuevas said they are digging deeper into to the stray bullet cases although it would be hard to trace the owner of the bullets.


Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas raised concern over the stray bullet incidents even as he urged residents to tip the police of persons who fired their guns on New Year’s Eve.


Treñas said cash reward await those who can finger irresponsible gun owners.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


ILOILO City recorded the highest number of stray bullet incidents when Ilonggos bade farewell to 2008 and welcomed 2009, the Year of the Ox.


Records from the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) and Iloilo City Police Office as of January 2, 2009 showed a total of 17 stray bullet cases with 5 injuries. This is higher than 6 stray bullet incidents recorded when Ilonggos welcomed year 2008.


Molo district recorded the most number of stray bullet cases with 10.


The Jaro police rushed to the home of businessman Benny “Vulcan” Espinosa at Villa Las Palmas after receiving reports that gunfire was heard from within the Espinosa residence.


But Espinosa denied the allegations and even invited the police and the media to go inside their home to check if they have firearms.


Supt. Eugenio Espejo, Iloilo City police director, said gun owners may have opted to fire their firearms as heavy rains might have discouraged them from using traditional firecrackers on New Year’s eve celebration.


Espejo said some gun owners did not heed their call against indiscriminate firing.


As regards firecracker incidents, data from the PRO-6 as of January 1 showed a total of 42 firecracker-related accidents in Region 6. The figure is lower than 62 firecracker injuries in 2008.


Bacolod City recorded the most number of firecracker injuries with 17, Iloilo province  10, and Negros Occidental 6.


PRO-6 authorities attributed the small numbers to the rain on New Year’s Eve.


But the Department of Health (DOH-6) has yet to release its own data on firecracker incidents referred to major hospitals in the region.


Meanwhile, DOH national figures showed a 25% decrease in firecracker injuries from 436 cases in 2007 to 346 cases from since December 22, 2008 to present.


The DOH central office also reported a total of nine stray bullet injuries, but the PNP said a higher number of 37 cases were reported to police stations since December 17.




Violent incidents marred the New Year in Iloilo province.


The worst incident happened in Dumangas town with the beheading of 20-year-old Edward Rosarito.


Lozarito’s headless body was found in a ricefield at Sitio Buhang, Brgyl. Ilaya 2nd in Dumangas Friday morning. The victim’s head was found 1 meter from his body, the Dumangas police said.


Lozarito also suffered wounds in his shoulders and forehead.


The victim was a native of Lambunao, Iloilo but worked in Brgy. Ilaya 2nd. He temporarily stayed in the house of a certain John Sandoval before he was found dead.


According to police investigation, Lozarito received a call in his cellphone Thursday evening then went out of Sandoval’s house.


Sandoval said the victim went to Brgy. Bacay, Dumangas on New Year’s Eve to visit his textmate.


The Dumangas police surmised old grudges were the motive for the incident because of the victim’s severe wounds.


In another incident, Joefrey Calimpay of Brgy. Bayag, Leon was stabbed to death by his own grandfather, Jose Wilson Calimpay, in the plaza of the said village Thursday.


An old grudge between the two is believed to be the motive for the incident.


In Cabatuan, Iloilo, Benedicto Pien and Ronald Amor were shot to death during the fiesta of Brgy. Tacdangan on New Year’s Eve.


Two persons also died in separate incidents in San Enrique, Iloilo also on New Year’s Eve.


Noel Aguilar, 47, of Brgy. Abaca in the said town was pummeled to death during a rumble.


Dennis Debaja of Brgy. Cumpo was killed in a melee between his brothers Rene Debaja and Remar Debaja and cousin-in-law Ramil Daras.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Health will help Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) buy a brand new cadaver freezer.

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III learned about WVMC’s predicament during the latter’s visit to Lambunao, Iloilo last week to lead the mass drug administration against lympathic filariasis.

Mejorada said he relayed to Duque the request of Dr. Jose Mari Fermin, WVMC director, to the Iloilo provincial government to help them buy a new cadaver freezer.

“Upon learning that WVMC was asking for the province’s help, he immediately called his staff and ordered them to look for funds which will be used to buy a new cadaver freezer,” Mejorada said.

The need to buy a new cadaver freezer for WVMC was raised after the remains of a Guimaras resident started to smell inside the hospital morgue, causing inconvenience among the patients and their folks.

Patient Leonardo Belleza was brought to WVMC in the morning of October 19 and died the next day due to complication of tuberculosis, hypertension and myocardial infarction. He was buried October 21 after none of his folks claimed his body.

The hospital buried Belleza’s body because the morgue freezer broke down after decades of operation.

Esther Nievales, WVMC chief administrative officer, said the hospital cannot afford a cadaver freezer which costs more or less P8 million for the type that can contain two cadavers.

Duque had said that tertiary hospital must have morgue freezers where the management can keep cadavers until their folks claim the remains.


Biron assails cheap meds law IRR

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ONE of the main proponents of the Cheaper Medicines Law criticized its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) as nothing but “a paper tiger.”

Rep. Ferjenel Biron (Iloilo, 4th district) said the IRR did not indicate the specific schedule and types of medicines to be regulated by the Department of Health (DOH).

Biron primarily questioned Chapter 6, Section 6 of the IRR which gives the DOH secretary the power to determine the prioritization of the drugs and medicines subject to maximum retail price (MRP).

Biron said it is important that priority medicines and their corresponding MRPs are spelled out in the IRR in order to fulfill the intention of the law.

 “What medicines will be regulated and when? Without this specific schedule and the medicines that must be subjected to price regulation, the law will be a failure. Is the DOH bent on implementing this law? No. With this IRR, the DOH secretary is like God. Nothing will happen unless he moves. Saying that the law was emasculated is an understatement. This law and its IRR will only give the people false hopes,” Biron said.

Biron said giving the DOH secretary the power to set the MRP for essential medicines will make the law susceptible to lobbyists of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

“This is fraudulent, this is not the intent of the law. It is pure stupidity not to spell out the necessary information in the IRR. They murdered the law,” he added.

The Ilonggo congressman said this is the result of the DOH’s refusal to support the price regulatory mechanism in the law which will set a ceiling on prices of essential medicines especially those needed for long-term medications.

“The DOH said let us leave it to the free market. But we have been using the free market in the last 50 years but what happened? Multinational pharmaceutical companies became abusive and medicine prices soared,” he said.

The Cheaper Medicines Act was signed into law June 6, 2008 after years of protracted debate in Congress aside from allegations of lobbyists from multinational pharmaceutical companies trying to derail the passage of the law.

The IRR of the law was published in the November 6, 2008 issue of a national daily.

Biron said he will use the House of Representatives’ oversight powers to look into the IRR and make the necessary amendments to the document.

“This is not the end of road for us. In the next few weeks and months we will come out with a list of the maximum retail prices of medicines,” Biron said.

Department of Trade and Industry regional director Dominic Abad said they will need a list of medicines brands and the corresponding MRPs in monitoring the market once the law is implemented.

Abad said the DTI was primarily tasked in the IRR to conduct price monitoring of medicines in areas where they hold office.   

June 2020

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