MANILA — One of the notable accomplishments the Department of Health (DOH) can best be remembered in 2015 is its success in managing and controlling the possible spread of emerging and threatening infectious diseases in the country.

“One notable accomplishment is the good monitoring system in the emerging diseases… The Ebola virus disease was not able to penetrate in our country,” said Dr. Lyndon Lee-Suy, DOH spokesperson, in an interview with the Philippines News Agency.

He attributed the success of the government campaign to the implementation of a number of measures in cooperation with other agencies like intensified guarding of all ports of entry in the country and the cooperation of the public as well as the media in helping spread the DOH messages on the prevention of emerging diseases.

Dr. Lee-Suy noted that like in the 2003 campaign against the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), local government units (LGus) were also mobilized as the first line of defense in preventing the entry and spread of Ebola virus in the Philippines.

Local governments are numerous and their reach is far and wide, making them a big help in the Ebola preventive campaign, he said.

There are 81 provincial governments, 143 city governments, 1,494 municipal governments and 42,026 barangay governments spread around the country.

The national government has devolved basic health services to the local governments after the enactment of the Local Government Code of 1991.

Another important factor employed by the DOH in preparing for the entry of the feared Ebola virus was the conduct of training on how to handle and manage infectious diseases among healthcare workers, LGUs representatives, etc., so that they are prepared on what to do in case there is a need for referral of possible cases.

As an important shield, the DOH also kept on reminding the public to properly clean and wash their hands with soap and water and cover nose and mouth with tissue or sleeves of their dress when they sneeze.

According to Dr. Lee-Suy, while it was true that the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was able to enter the country, the case was easily detected and controlled and did not come to a point wherein it was able to spread in the community.

It maybe recalled that it was in the month of February this year wherein a pregnant 32-year-old Filipina nurse was detected to be positive with MERS-CoV after arriving from Saudi Arabia.

Prior to detection of her MERS-CoV infection, the patient previously sought medical consultation in a medical specialty hospital in Laguna.

With suspicion that she has MERS-CoV, her case was referred promptly to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.

For proper control of possible spread of the disease, the family of the Filipina nurse agreed to undergo quarantine and confirmatory testing.

He co-passengers in the airplane that flew her back to Manila were also traced and monitored by the DOH surveillance and monitoring teams.

Those who had been suspected to have contact with her in the hospital wherein she first sought treatment agreed for self-quarantine.

Disinfecting of the hospital premises and equipment was also done both by the hospital staff and later on for the second time by the DOH and World Health Organization (WHO) personnel.

Fortunately, all of those tested yielded negative results.

On the other hand, the Filipina nurse was properly taken care off until she was given the go-signal to go home after her condition was thoroughly and successfully managed.

Dr. Lee-Suy said that unity, aggressiveness and vigilance of DOH teams and partners had contributed a lot to limiting the presence of MERS-CoV in the country.

MERS-CoV is an illness similar to flu wherein the patient suffers fever cough, cold and sneezing. It originated in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Dr. Lee-Suy said that DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin and other health officials and even different partner agencies have been giving constant public reminders that reporting by going to the nearest hospital is important among those who experience such flu-like symptoms, especially if they come from the Middle East peninsula.

They even encourage the public to come out if they have suspicion that they have possible exposure with a MERS-CoV infected patient by calling the DOH hotlines.

They also untiringly inform the public of the risk of developing MERS-CoV that may result to health deterioration, especially among the senior citizens suffering from diabetes and stroke.

In addition, they always stress the importance of filling up properly the yellow form or “health declaration checklist” by arriving passengers so that effective and easier surveillance and monitoring or contact-tracing can be immediately done when needed.

Meanwhile, DOH-MIMAROPA Regional Director Dr. Eduardo C. Janairo has actively initiated series of health summits so that the island provinces as well as hotels accommodating foreign and local tourists in his region also become aware on how they can help in controlling the infectious diseases.

MIMAROPA Region is composed of the island provinces of Mindoro Occidental/Oriental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. Leilani S. Junio/PNA/