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How the ashfall from Taal Volcano can harm you

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How the ashfall from Taal Volcano can harm you

The Department of Health (DOH) has advised the public to minimize exposure to the volcanic ash blown to Metro Manila cities after the Taal Volcano eruption on Sunday (January 12).

This is because the ashfall contains harmful substances such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, fluorine and hydrochloric acid, among others.

Among the harmful effects of volcanic ash are: nose and throat irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illness, discomfort while breathing, eye irritation and skin irritation.

Particularly vulnerable to these harmful substances are people suffering from asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is why they are advised to remain indoors. 

Interviewed over radio station DZMM, pulmonologist Giancarlo Arandia said the ash particles are so small that can easily enter the openings of the respiratory system.

Those who can’t avid gong outdoors, Arandia said they should use N95 masks or damp towel in covering their nose.

Ophthalmologist Nilo Flor Cruz also told DZMM: “Irritating ‘yung ash na ‘yon dahil medyo acidic ‘yon eh. Kung dati sa panahon ng Pinatubo, pwedeng mangalawang ‘yung mga bubong, paano pa ‘yung mata natin.”

He recommended the use eye of lubricant drops to remove the tiny ashes and also regular washing of the face.

The Philippine office of the World Health Organization gave these recommendations to the public: stay indoors unless absolutely necessary; avoid low-lying areas and areas downwind from the volcano; for children, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems, wear masks that block small particles of ash; for the general population, wear a simple mask; wear protective eye gear; make sure food and water you consume are safe.

DOH quarantine bureau at airports on heightened alert after the spread of unknown disease in Wuhan

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DOH quarantine bureau at airports on heightened alert after spread of unknown disease in Wuhan

Passengers arriving from China and Hong Kong will be made to undergo physical tests, including temperature scanners, upon arrival at Philippine airports to make sure the currently unknown disease that has infected more than 50 people in Wuhan, China will not enter the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday (January 6).

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, DOH spokesman, said arriving passengers would be quarantined if necessary, especially if they were found to have flu-like symptoms and coughs.

“Doble bantay lang po sa mga flights galing China at Hong Kong para ma-detect lang po natin agad kung may mga pasaherong may lagnat. I-interviewin, phyisical exam at kung meron nakitang dahilan, baka kailangan natin i-quarantine,” Domingo said in an interview over DZMM radio station.

According to the report of Agence France-Press, the Wuhan infection broke out between 12 and 29 December, with some of the patients employed at a seafood market in the city that has since been closed for disinfection. No obvious evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found so far, added the province’s health commission. 

Domingo said there is still no indication if the disease is caused by the SARS virus, which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2003. 

Still, Domingo advised Filipinos traveling to China and Hong Kong to avoid going to populous places. They should also wear face masks and regularly wash their hands. He said Hong Kong was included on the watch list because two of its residents returned home sick from Wuhan.

Domingo also urged Filipinos who just arrived from China and Hong Kong to immediately see a doctor if they are not feeling well. “Pa-check up na, lalo na sa mga infectious disease hospitals like San Lazaro, para malaman natin and avoid na rin makahawa,” he said.

Domingo stressed that the Philippines need to handle the matter with prudence since it is a new disease and “we don’t know yet its extent”. The DOH’s Bureau of Quarantine at the airports, he said, is already on top of the matter.

DOH, EcoWaste insist total ban on fireworks only way to prevent injuries during revelries

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DOH, EcoWaste insist total ban on fireworks only way to prevent injuries during revelries
Image Credit: Tabloid.PH

The Department of Health (DOH) is still pushing for a total ban on firecrackers and fireworks despite the huge 35-percent drop in the number of related injuries during the 2019 holiday season revelries.

This was seconded by environmental advocate EcoWaste Coalition, which insisted that the only way to prevent injuries is to totally ban the traditional use of fireworks in greeting the start of a new year.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, in an interview with GMA News on Thursday (January 2), said the problem with a selective or partial ban is people are still getting hurt by legal types of firecrackers.

This was evident in the last revelries, where the majority of injuries were due to the use of legal fireworks, like those commonly called by Filipinos as kwitis, luces and fountain.

“Ang stand po ng Department of Health sana magkaroon natayo ng batas na talagang maging illegal na lang lahat ng fireworks, lalong-lalo na po kung gagamitin sa bahay or for personal use,” Domingo said in the interview.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported on Wednesday that only 164 firecracker-related injuries were recorded by the DOH from December 1 to January 1, 35 percent lower than the 251 cases in the previous same period.

The DOH chief attributed the considerable drop in injuries to the implementation of Executive Order 28, which limits the use of firecrackers in the country, as well as the department’s information campaign “IwasPaputok”.

Still, EcoWaste said in a statement that to achieve zero injury and zero pollution during the New Year revelry, “we need to seriously look at banning firecrackers and fireworks altogether.”

“We are saddened and dismayed by the bodily injuries inflicted by firecrackers and fireworks, especially on young victims. One injury is one too many and our society has to do more to discontinue the bloody and polluting tradition of ringing in the New Year with firecrackers and fireworks, legal or not,” said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner at EcoWaste.

The government, the group added, should look for alternative livelihood for the sectors that will be affected by a total ban on fireworks.

Domingo said the use of fireworks should only be allowed during “well-controlled and organized” events.

DOH, FDA raring to implement Duterte’s policy pronouncement on vaping ban

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DOH, FDA raring to implement Duterte’s policy pronouncement on vaping ban
Image via e-cigarette Reviewed

The Department of Health (DOH) welcomed the policy pronouncement of President Duterte banning vaping in public places.

Health Undersecretary Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo said they will now wait for the executive order (EO) to be issued by the Office of the President to determine how it would be properly implemented.

“Very clear yung words ng Presidente, kung saan bawal magsigarilyo, bawal din mag-vape,” Domingo said.

For the enforcement side, Domingo said the DOH will coordinate with the police and the local government units.

As for the ban, the DOH will be working with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Domingo is also the officer in charge of the FDA.

Domingo said the DOH already released last August an administrative order (AO) tasking the FDA to regulate the sale of vapes. However, sellers managed to secure temporary restraining orders from two regional trial courts against the AO. 

“Because of the TRO, we had to put the regulation on hold; but we are fighting for it. So now they can continue selling vapes unregulated. But when we see the actual EO of the President, we will work on that immediately,” Domingo said.

He stressed that they would not just accept the argument that vaping is less harmful than cigarette smoking. “Even if you say it is less harmful, still it is harmful, and we need further studies on that.”

He recalled that some 40 years ago, regulators were saying that “cigarette smoking may be harmful to your health.” Now, it has confirmed that smoking really kills. “So we should not wait for another 40 years to say that vaping can really kill people,” he said.

Amid ASF scare, Visayas provinces urged to just impose conditional ban as region faces shortage of pork supply

in Tabloid PH News
Amid ASF scare, Visayas provinces urged to just impose conditional ban as region faces shortage of pork supply
Cebu Lechon Image Used Under Creative Commons License From generals-lechon.com

The group of big producers of processed meat urged some provinces in the Visayas to downgrade their total ban on pork products to just a “conditional ban”, as the region would be experiencing supply shortage starting next week.

The Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) said under a conditional ban, only those that do not have the required certificates of safety, health and quality compliance will not be allowed to enter certain areas.

“I agree with conditional bans. Conditional ban means products will not be allowed if they do not carry the necessary certificates,” PAMPI spokesman Rex Agarrado said in an interview with GMA News.

Currently, the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Davao City, and Negros Occidental have imposed a total ban on the entry, distribution and sale of pork and pork products from Luzon as a way to prevent the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the region. The Department of Health (DOH) earlier confirmed that pigs in several Luzon farms have been infected with ASF.

Agarrado stressed that if these provinces would retain their hardline stance on the total ban, the Visayas could run out of stocks of pork and pork products as early as next week.

“In the coming week, I would expect shortages to happen. For canned meat products, we possibly would have longer inventories but they certainly will not be longer than the 90-day ban that has been set forth by the imposing LGU’s,” he said in the interview with GMA News.

The ban, he said, has already prompted logistics firms to halt the shipment of frozen and canned pork products to the Visayas. “The supplies in those areas are really limited. I would venture to say that the inventories in those areas are only two weeks to possibly four weeks at the most.”

With this, Agarrado said concerned agencies such as the  Departments of Agriculture, Health, Trade and Industry, and Interior and Local Government should step in to address the problem.

A supply shortage automatically translates to higher prices, to the detriment of consumers.

“Today, our ability to replenish the stocks are being deterred by shipping companies telling us that anyway, the shipments will not be received so they would rather not also receive our shipments coming here from Luzon,” Agarrado said.

Ban on use of Dengvaxia stays—DOH’s Duque

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Ban on use of Dengvaxia stays—DOH’s Duque
image credit: twitter / @secduque

Despite calls from several groups to allow the limited use of Dengvaxia amid the dengue epidemic, the Department of Health (DOH) announced on Thursday (August 22) that the appeal of Sanofi Pasteur seeking to reverse the revocation of its certificate of product registration (CPR) for the dengue vaccine has been thumbed down.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the denial of Sanofi’s appeal dated August 19 was due to the French manufacturer’s “continued failure to submit post-approval requirements.”

Dengvaxia’s CPR was canceled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last February, effectively banning the use of the vaccine in the country.

“The decision concerns Sanofi’s complete disregard of FDA regulations, which were precisely put in place by law to ensure safety,” Duque said.

He added: “The DOH is committed to strong and strict implementation of our health laws and regulations. We know how critical this is to our efforts to rebuild public trust and confidence in our public health programs and in vaccines that have long been proven effective.” 

He, however, clarified that Sanofi can still apply for a new CPR for Dengvaxia, especially at this time when the country is in a state of national dengue epidemic, with the number of dengue cases about to breach 200,000 already this year.

Even President Duterte had said he is open to the use of Dengvaxia again. ”Now, compare it vis-à-vis to those who died, I want to hear the words of the experts, doctors, and we have enough bright people to tell us. I don’t need foreigners to tell me, my own Filipino scientists and doctors would tell me what to do. I will be guided by their announcements,” he said.

Sanofi failed to submit its third risk management plan (RMP), a post-marketing requirement meant to ensure public safety.

It also failed to submit fresh data on its “pharmacovigilance and post-marketing surveillance” programs. 

These reports should detail the monitoring of Dengvaxia’s effects on some 830,000 students vaccinated through the Dengue Immunization Program at the tail end of the Aquino administration in 2016.

Declaration of ‘national dengue epidemic’ likely

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Declaration of ‘national dengue epidemic’ likely
Image Credit: Gov.PH

The Department of Health (DOH) has set a meeting today to validate figures that will be used as basis in upgrading the current “national dengue alert” to a “national dengue epidemic” to enable the government to better mobilize resources in preventing the further spread of the deadly disease.

Interviewed at the ABS-CBN News Channel, DOH Undersecretary Enrique Domingo said they are now getting all the data from the previous weeks. They have found out that in just a span of one week—or in the third week of July—there were 10,000 cases of dengue reported.

Current estimated cases of dengue nationwide have reached 146,000 already.

Last July 15, Health Secretary Francisco Duque declared a national dengue alert. Data reaching Duque that time showed the dengue cases had risen to 106,630 from January 1 to June 29, 2019, from only 57,564 cases in the same period last year. Regions Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Northern Mindanao had exceeded the epidemic threshold. Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Cordillera Administrative Region, on the other hand, exceeded the alert threshold.

Today, Domingo said more regions exceeded the epidemic threshold, including Calabrazon, Bicol and Eastern Visayas and Zamboanga Peninsula. Bordering between alert and epidemic levels are Ilocos region, Central Visayas and BARMM.

A national epidemic can be declared if at least half of the country’s regions have reached the epidemic level.

“We are going to consolidate all the data today and have a meeting at the department for that,” Domingo said. “Once we get all the information in, yes, it is very likely (that we will declare a national dengue epidemic).”

He noted that by declaring a national epidemic, government resources and instrumentalities will be mobilized further.

“We get to work with other govt agencies, the DILG, PNP, Department of Education, and tighten up our activities a little more and raise up the bar, because when we have these cases going on. we really have to do everything to make sure they don’t increase,” he added. “You can activate the NDRRMC and (have) all the government (agencies) working together for one particular activity, in this case, prevention of dengue.”

The problem, he said, will likely persist up to September due to the rainy season, noting that water that remained stagnant for three days is enough to breed mosquitoes. 

The best thing to do on the part of the public for now, Domingo added, is to ensure they maintain cleanliness in their surroundings, remove all stagnant water and have proper attire for kids. 

The hospitals are ready to treat patients suspected with dengue, especially those with continuous fever for three days.

Senators to start Philhealth probe even sans Duque

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Senators to start Philhealth probe even sans Duque

Senators are bent on starting its probe on the reported multibillion-peso scam at the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) even if Health Secretary Francisco Duque III would not be able to attend the first hearing as he supervises efforts to address the dengue outbreak in the country.

Duque will be quizzed by members of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee for his alleged involvement in the overpayment of Philhealth benefits to hospitals and the reported dealings of his family-owned companies with Philhealth and the Department of Health (DOH)

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the committee, said he wants hearings to start by Friday, with former officials of Philhealth and DOH already summoned to answer queries from the senators.

Gordon said they want to establish immediately how Philhealth funds are being managed and what led to the overpayment of benefits to hospitals that caused the state corporation to lose P154 billion.

In his State of the Nation Address last Monday, President Duterte said he already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to identify all the officials of public and private institutions involved in the hospital bogus claims. 

Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, wants Duque to explain to the committee why the DOH and Philhealth had contracts with corporations owned by the Health secretary’s family.

Lacson, according to a report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer,  criticized Duque for allowing Philhealth to lease a space in a family-owned building in Dagupan City, Pangasinan. The Duque-owned Doctors’ Pharmaceuticals Inc. (DPI), meanwhile, supplied medicines to DOH. Lacson, the report added, also linked Duque to the reported overpayments of PhilHealth to private hospitals, including one supposedly owned by a godson of the health chief. 

These, Lacson said, constitute a conflict of interest. 

It was Lacson who exposed the bogus claims scam involving Philhealth and certain hospitals and clinics.

Duque has already informed the Blue Ribbon Committee that he is currently too preoccupied with the dengue outbreak and will not be able to attend the Senate probe.

Dengvaxia back in Philippine spotlight

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dengvaxia

Manila, Philippines — Controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia is hugging the headlines in the country anew, with doctors and scientists urging the government to lift the ban on the Sanofi-made vaccine following the doubling of dengue cases in the Philippines this year.

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed dengue has already claimed the lives of 561 people as of July 13. Nationwide, the number of dengue cases rose to more than 130,000, nearly doubling the 67,690 recorded in the same period last year with 367 deaths. Children aged 5 to 9 were the most vulnerable with about 30,000 cases year-to-date. From July 7 to 13 alone, the DOH recorded 8,295 cases already.

Western Visayas, which includes the provinces of Negros Occidental, Capiz, Aklan, Antique, Iloilo and Guimaras, had the most incidence with 18,943 cases and 95 deaths.

With the alarming rise in dengue cases, the Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare (DTPW) said it is high time the government lifted the ban on Dengvaxia. 

“The Philippines has the highest incidence and death rate from dengue in this part of the world. Yet it is the only country in the world that has banned it,” Dr. Minguita Padilla, DTPW co-convener, was quoted in a report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Led by former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, DTPW is composed of physicians, scientists, educators, former secretaries of health, and past and present heads of various professional medical associations and nongovernmental organizations.

“The vaccine need not be included in the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) of the government so that [the] government need not spend for it. But at least make it available to physicians to offer for the millions of patients who can benefit from it,” Padilla said. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) canceled the certificates of product registration (CPRs) of Dengvaxia last February due to Sanofi Pasteur, Inc.’s alleged disregard of the agency’s rules and regulations.

One month later, the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted former Health Secretary Janette Garin and 19 health officials and drug executives for the deaths of children who received Dengvaxia shots.

Garin was the DOH secretary in the tail end of the Aquino administration when the P3.5-billion mass dengue immunization program was implemented by the government.

They were charged for “inexcusable lack of precaution and foresight” and because they “totally disregarded the identified risks and adverse effects of the vaccine”.

Former President Benigno Aquino III said the Dengvaxia issue was just used to demonize the former administration and that the rise in dengue cases would have been avoided if the program was continued.

“The thing that could have protected the health of our citizens cannot deliver anymore because of politics and a lot of bad motivation,” Aquino said in a report of the Philippine Star. “The protection that could have been given to a lot of people was not given… It is like a scandal and an alarm. If there are people who were killed, they should be held liable.”

Aquino, who was also investigated for his role in the controversy, is turning the tables on his detractors, saying those behind the plot to scare away Filipinos from the use of Dengvaxia should be held accountable.

It was actually President Duterte’s Spokesman Salvador Panelo who first floated the idea of allowing the use of Dengvaxia in the country again in response to the rise in dengue cases.

“If we know that Dengvaxia could be used for seropositive patients, then why don’t we try it? We will just consider it. We have to make a study. As I said earlier, it needs, requires a serious study before we can use it,” he told reporters. “Why not use Dengvaxia for those who already had dengue before? Because it would surely work there. Mine is only a suggestion. But didn’t they say that the dengue cases are worsening? We need a vaccine for that.”

Photo Credit: PhilStar / Kriz John

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