Last July, Asia was once again threatened by a pandemic that has been present since the 1980s. The Enterovirus 71 (EV71) is a variant form of the Hand, Food and Mouth Disorder. Currently, the disease has claimed the lives of approximately 65 children, below the age of seven years old in a neighboring country of Cambodia.
The Department of Health (DOH) last July 31, confirmed a second case of EV71 in the Philippines. DOH officials reassure that the case of the five year old boy from Benguet is just mild and that the first case with the one year old child from Davao, has already recovered from the virus.
EV71 is not a new species of virus that has infected the world. The earliest case of EV71 recorded was around the 1960s. EV71 evolves as it affects hosts. Outbreaks of the EV71 has been recorded in China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan. Most of the cases have been confirmed among children below the ages of seven but the World Health Organization has stated that the host of such virus can be anyone and everyone such observed proper hygienic practice.
As Dr. Elis Maghirang, a professor from the DLSU Biology Department, states that the reason why EV71 outbreaks come and go because it’s either the virus evolves or the host adapts to fight the virus.
“There are a lot of things that should be derived at,” Dr. Maghirang explains. He argues that looking at the recent outbreak of the EV71 in Cambodia, other factors besides the virus must be taken into consideration. He states that people from Cambodia may be more immunocompromised than those in other Asian countries, or maybe the facilities of Cambodia aren’t capable of handling such a virus as compared to other countries. He compares it to the Bird Flu outbreaks in Asia that did not really affect the Filipino people. “Unfortunately, when you’re trying to figure out how to fight the virus, the virus evolves into something new and adaptable,” he adds.
With the news of the outbreak in a neighboring country as Cambodia, naturally the Filipino public is worried. The Department of Health has issued that there is really no cause for alarm and the real measure to take in preventing an outbreak of EV71 in the country is a healthy and hygienic lifestyle.
As Maghirang puts it, “it’s the usual reminders of health practitioners to wash your hands, to eat healthy and drink lots of fluids [that prevent such viruses from infecting people].” He explains that the Philippines has seen many different viruses.
Infections are endemic in the country on the grounds of being a tropical country and with regards to Public Health and Sanitation Standards. What the Department of Health is continually reminding the public (to stay healthy) is not an extraordinary measure but it does ensure a strong defense against all these viruses that threaten the lives of people. The regulation and implementation of these reminders is what Maghirang points out to be the problem.
On the other hand, Dr. Laarni Roque, University Physician believes that the country still has shortcomings when it comes to proper facilities and equipment in fighting viruses that may turn into an all out pandemic. “If you are to base it in H1N1, the country handled it by information dissemination through the aid of media,” Dr. Roque explains. She further stresses that the Philippines may be able to contain an outbreak if such occurs but the country cannot fully prepare for a pandemic wherein no one will die because such a feat is impossible.
As explained by Dianne Mallari, a medical practitioner with the private sector, the government follows 4 alert levels when it comes to outbreaks in the country. Alert level 1 is when there are no confirmed cases within the country, Alert level 2 when there are confirmed cases but no human to human transmission, Alert level 3 is raised when there are confirmed cases and deaths but still no confirmed human to human transmission and Alert level 4 for confirmed cases of death and human to human transmission.
In the case of a pandemic already affecting a certain country, Dr. Noel Reyes, University Physician explains that there are phases that are to be followed. The first phase is the identification of symptoms, second phase is isolation and treatment. Third phase is with regards to occurring deaths; how to prevent and make sure the casualties do not increase.
When it comes to the preparation of DLSU in case a pandemic does occur, Roque explains that DLSU has its own measures such as information dissemination, isolation of cases and census. She also added that it is the reason why DLSU has wellness, information dissemination, green scheme and STRATCOM.
“We don’t want to just move when the disease is already there but [it is also essential to take note of the] preparedness of the institution with regards to facilities,” she shares.
In the end, ensuring our own safety is up to the students themselves. “You should know how to protect yourself. You should know when to go to the doctor. You should know the symptoms,” Reyes stresses.