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Over two-thirds of reported AH1N1 cases are ordinary influenza - says DOH official

Manila (19 June) -- The Department of Health (DOH) yesterday sought to temper the widespread fear over the influenza A(H1N1) virus, saying that more than two-thirds of the A (H1N1)-positive cases in the Philippines have turned out to be "just like ordinary flu."

Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde stressed, however, that the government is taking no chances in its efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

There will be no letup in the DOH's efforts to ensure that the H1N1 virus, which has already affected more than 300 Filipinos and led to the suspension of classes in some schools in Metro Manila, is contained, he said.

Villaverde briefed the media on the latest influenza A (H1N1) situation during the weekly press conference of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in Malacanang yesterday afternoon.

Reiterating the advice of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the DOH official said the usual health protocols on frequent hand-washing, proper coughing and sneezing etiquette and social distancing must be observed to prevent the spread of the H1NI flu.

Based on the 100 cases, all of them mild, "we have every reason to say that there is no need to panic about this type of influenza or rush to buy the vaccines to protect ourselves from it," Villaverde told Palace reporters.

He said the world is closely monitoring the H1N1 cases amid the seasonal changes in the northern and southern hemispheres, and whether the virus would mutate to a stronger strain.

Villaverde explained that the DOH has a stockpile of 1.023 million doses of the vaccine against H1N1- aside from the stocks held in the regional offices and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

But the health department would rather dispense the vaccines only for those cases that have been certified as falling under the criteria of H1N1, he added.

He said that under the DOH guidelines, upon the discovery of a H1N1 case, classes should be suspended for 10 days. If signs and symptoms of H1N1 are observed after classes resume, these should be referred to the health facility or hospital.

Villaverde said the DOH has not made a request for additional budget for the anti-H1N1 campaign, aside from the P93.5 million that it has secured from the calamity fund of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

He said 50-60 percent of the P93.5-million outlay has already been expended.

Villaverde cautioned the people against getting injections in hopes of being protected against the H1N1 virus. The current flu vaccine being dispensed by most hospitals are for ordinary flu and not for H1N1, he stressed.

The vaccine for ordinary flu cannot also be used for dengue, which is another strain, he added.

Villaverde also said that there was no need to upgrade the capabilities of hospitals to address the H1N1 flu "as the cases are just mild and they can easily be treated just like ordinary flu" by primary and secondary hospitals.

In some cases, the patients can just be treated at home through social distancing and isolation, he added.

"What we have to watch is the second wave, which is why the southern and northern hemispheres are also watching the changes in the virus' structure with the seasonal changes," he said.

So far, no new H1N1 cases have been reported in Jaen, Nueva Ecija, but "we will watch if there are no more reported cases," the DOH official said.

In Bulacan, "we are still characterizing the movement of the virus if there are more reported cases. But we have not been getting any yet," he added. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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