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PH remains Ebola-free – DOH

Quarantined peacekeeper catches fever; Ebola, malaria tests on tap by Elena L. Aben & Charina Clarisse Echaluce November 15, 2014 (updated)

Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin yesterday assured the public that the Philippines remains free from Ebola.

She gave the assurance after one of the 133 Filipino peacekeepers from Ebola-stricken Liberia developed fever. But later in the day, the peacekeeper’s body temperature normalized.

Despite this development Garin and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said this should not cause panic.

“The public should not panic. The Philippines is still Ebola-free,” Garin assured.


“We are appealing to the public… not to panic. We are taking care of our peacekeepers, we are looking after their welfare,” said Lt. Col. Harold M. Cabunoc, the AFP public affairs office (PAO) chief. He added that the AFP fully supports government efforts to keep the country Ebola virus-free.

The 133 peacekeepers arrived in the country early Wednesday evening and were immediately taken to Caballo Island in Cavite for a 21-day quarantine.

“This morning, one of the peacekeepers developed fever, chills, and body malaise. Bacause he came from Liberia, we are testing him for Ebola,” Garin said.

The patient’s fever reached 39.4 degrees Celsius, but this normalized later in the day.

Department of Health (DOH) spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy told Manila Bulletin in a telephone interview that the peacekeeper is in “stable” condition right now.

Garin said that in “a doctor’s clinical eye,” the patient seems to have malaria, an illness he had when he was still in Liberia.

The AFP stressed that the troops –108 soldiers, 24 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel, and a member of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) – had passed an Ebola screening test conducted by UN doctors prior to their repatriation.


The peacekeeper will be tested for both Ebola and malaria. The result for the test for Ebola will be available after 48 hours, while the result for malaria may be released after a day.

“We are transferring this patient to a hospital para masigurong walang siyang Ebola and at the same time review the malaria treatment he had before,” Garin stated.

The acting health chief declined to disclose the name of the hospital. We appeal to everyone to respect the privacy of the patient and his family, she appealed.

Garin said the DOH cannot guarantee anything unless there is a test.

“We cannot guarantee unless there is a test. What we are saying is that ‘yong pasyenteng may Ebola, kung saka-sakaling may Ebola nga, hindi siya nakakahawa kung wala pang sintomas,” she said, clarifying that as of last check, the patient still does not have body secretion.


While ruling out Ebola for now, Garin said the patient has a chance of having malaria again, given his history of having the disease.

Despite Ebola fears, health workers handling the peacekeeper will not wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) because the patient has no Ebola symptoms like vomiting, or loose bowel movement, said Garin.

However, should the peacekeeper manifest more symptoms, health workers will have to wear PPE.

Based on health advisories, Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with body fluids. When asked by Manila Bulletin if the patient’s body sweat has no threat, Garin said there is none.

Suy said the use of protective gears depend on the phase of the illness.


Garin said that when the peacekeeper felt he had fever, he immediately sought assistance and was transferred to an isolated area.

“He was in the same room with other peacekeepers when he developed fever. But he has no symptoms like vomiting,” she said.

The health team is now monitoring the patient’s roommates.

“Nakakahawa lang po ang Ebola kung may mga sintomas na ang pasyente. Ebola is not airborne. While contagious, it is not an easy virus to catch… ‘Yong  lagnat is a sign na walang fluids, walang sasakyan ‘yong Ebola para lumipat,” she added.

Garin confirmed to Manila Bulletin that the peacekeepers sleep in the same rooms but in separate beds.

She added that all the quarantined peacekeepers are well-informed and cooperative.


Meanwhile, millions of lives could be lost in a global pandemic if the international community repeats its tardy response to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim warned Friday.

Kim called for the establishment of a multi-billion dollar contingency fund to ensure relief efforts mobilize immediately when an infection threat such as Ebola or a rogue influenza strain emerges.

Such outbreaks were not only human tragedies but also threatened to destabilize the world economy, the Korean said at the G20 summit in Brisbane, where he is promoting his proposal to leaders of the world’s most powerful economies.

“It would require something like a global health corps – people from all over the world who’d be ready to respond at a moment’s notice – (and) a fund that would disperse millions, and indeed billions, of dollars if necessary,” he told reporters.

Kim said the world was slow to react to the worst Ebola outbreak on record, which has killed some 5,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

“The (Ebola) response was late and we all know that… if we had a flu pandemic that would move very quickly and potentially kill millions, we would need many billions of dollars dispersed right away,” he said.

He described the proposed fund as “almost like an insurance policy” for the world. (With a report from AFP).



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