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DOH: How to avoid getting meningococcemia

Metro, Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) — The Department of Health (DOH) recommended measures to avoid contracting meningococcemia, following a recent case at a hospital in Tondo, Manila.

The emergency room of Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo, Manila has been closed off Wednesday due to a suspected meningococcemia case.

Dr. Chito Avelino, director of the DOH's Epidemiology Bureau, explained meningococcemia is a bacterial infection that originates from a person's throat.

"In normal and healthy individuals, I will use the word na dormant, hindi siya nakaka-affect sa normal na tao. That having said, may carrier stage ang meningococcemia. 'Pag sinabi nating carrier stage or carrier na person, the person may have or harboured the bacteria but may not manifest the signs and symptoms of meningococcemia," he said.

[Translation: It does not affect normal healthy persons. Meningococcemia has a carrier stage. When you say carrier stage or carrier person, the person may have or harbored the bacteria but may not manifest the signs and symptoms of meningococcemia.]

A middle-aged woman was rushed to the hospital in Tondo early Wednesday for a different ailment. However, doctors saw rashes on her foot, which are among the telling symptoms of meningococcemia. The physicians then ruled the woman was exhibiting all clinical symptoms of the infection.

The woman is still confined in the hospital as of press time. She has undergone confirmatory laboratory tests that were forwarded to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicines in Muntinlupa City. "We get to know the results two to three days from now," Avelino said. 

He explained when a person's immune system is weakened, the bacteria become virulent and invade a person's blood. When the bacteria get circulated in the body, they will affect the person's organs, including the brain.

"Ang isang part of the body na ina-affect niya is the brain kaya nagkakaron ngmeningeal signs and symptoms. Ito yung nag-kukumbulsion, natutulog na hindi mo na nagigising, nagiging comatose."

[Translation: One of the parts of the body that it affects is the brain, that is why there are meningeal signs and symptoms. A patient suffers from combulsion or comatose.]

The epidimiologist said the infection is contagious and is spread through droplets or the saliva of the infected person.

"If ever na nag-cough siya or may mga immediate na nahawakan, if ever, that area should be infected or decontaminated."

[Translation: If the person coughs, or when he touches something...]

How to avoid being infected

The DOH recommended the following steps to avoid contracting the infection:

  • Don't go to overcrowded areas
  • Avoid being exposed to tobacco smokes
  • If you don't feel good, have yourself checked by a doctor and don't self-medicate
  • Build your resistance by increasing fluid intake, eating fruits, and doing regular exercise

The DOH added everyone should observe proper flu etiquette. People should cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing. Regular washing of hands is also imperative.

Following protocols

Avelino said the closure of Tondo hospital is part of standard procedures in handling infectious diseases so that the affected hospital section could be disinfected.

"You should decontaminate ang area para hindi maging source of transmitting the illness to other patients who will be brought to that area," Avelino said.

[Translation: You should decontaminate the area so it won't be a source of illness transmission to other patients who will be brought in the area.]

The health official said even if the woman's laboratory result has yet to be released, the hospital was instructed to follow protocols in attending to a patient infected with meningococcemia.

Is there an epidemic?

The DOH said there have been 12 people infected with meningococcemia in the country, five of them died since the year started.

Six cases were confirmed to have contracted the disease  by laboratory tests, while the remaining patients who showed clinical symptoms either have died or have pending laboratory results, Avelino said.

The DOH said it cannot conclude at this time whether there is an epidemic, as it has yet to receive reports from hospitals across the country.

"What we are saying now is we are seeing cases because it is season. Uso ngayon siya(It's common)," Avelino said, referring to people's vulnerability to sickness at this time of the year.

The agency expects to receive all hospital reports within the week.



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