Strengthen PH defense vs Ebola first – doctors' group

MANILA, Philippines – Before sending health workers to countries affected by the deadly Ebola virus, the Philippine College of Physicians urged the government and other stakeholders to first strengthen the Philippines’ defense against the disease.

“We should protect our country first from the entry of Ebola virus, especially those coming from West African countries who are in the area of greatest peril. This should be the focus of our efforts in the light of the looming global epidemic on the dreaded virus,” PCP President Anthony Leachon said in a statement Wednesday, October 15.

Responding to global calls, Health Secretary Enrique Ona earlier said the government will decide this week whether it will send health workers to West African countries affected by the Ebola virus.

The doctors’ group expressed its openness to be involved in the global effort to prevent the spread of Ebola, but said the country must start preparing its local doctors and other health workers, as well as hospitals and health facilities, for Ebola.

"We need to build new areas where the 3,000 Filipinos coming home from West Africa in November can be accommodated when the alert level is raised, and in anticipation of the Christmas holiday season,” Leachon added.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Monday, October 13, said the Philippines is preparing to raise alert level 3 – voluntary repatriation – over Ebola-affected countries in West Africa “effective mid-November 2014.” (READ: PH preps for return of Filipinos from Ebola-hit nations)

About 110 Filipino United Nations peacekeepers from Liberia will also come home on November 10 and will be quarantined for 21 days following health protocols.

In the PCP statement Wednesday, former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said medical groups like PCP should be open to the voluntary involvement of health workers in responding to the Ebola crisis.

“It is our duty to extend medical help when and where it is needed. We who keep asking for help and who keep receiving it from other countries when we are in crisis must respond in like manner when we are asked for help in turn,” added Cabral, also a former PCP president.

Prepare gov't infrastructure

PCP also stressed the need for infection control methods in the travel sector. It also urged the private sector to assist in creating a training program for the country's medical community who will be in the best position to inform the public about Ebola.

Leachon said the capacity of trained local medical doctors to volunteer in Ebola-hit West African countries should not be underestimated, but the government should still "lay down an infrastructure for indemnification for the family of volunteers."

Cabral agreed: "All of us know that the task entails some risk to our own well-being so involvement must be voluntary and premised on everything being done to minimize the risk to our own health and provisions for indemnification being put in place.”

The Ebola virus, which can be transmitted through bodily fluids, causes severe fever, muscle pain, weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. In some cases, it also causes organ failure and unstoppable bleeding. It can kill victims in just days.

The latest death toll is already at 4,447, from the 8,914 recorded cases of infection.

A World Health Organization (WHO) official on Tuesday, October 14, said the Ebola infection rate could soon reach 10,000 cases a week by the first week of December. (READ: Ebola death rate up to 70% – WHO)

While the worst-hit countries remain to be Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, 4 other countries have reported a case or cases imported from a country with widespread and intense transmission: Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, and the United States. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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