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MANILA, Philippines - Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona has classified Enterovirus 71 as a notifiable disease, which means that all health providers and doctors are required to report individual cases and outbreaks of the illness due to its potential danger to human or animal health.
Ona said that although fatal infection caused by Enterovirus 71 remains very rare in the Philippines, some diseases caused by the virus had occured in the country irregularly.
The virus was reponsible for the abrupt death of 64 children under seven years old in Cambodia. Most of whom suffered from fever, respiratory illnesses, and neurological abnormalities.
The DOH on Tuesday appealed to the public to report any possible presence of Enterovirus 71 in the country.
DOH spokesman Dr. Eric Tayag said the public and other concerned agencies must immediately report to the department any possible presence of the virus, which can cause diarrhea, rashes, hand, foot and mouth disease, and severe neurological diseases.
Tayag said that if children develop signs and symptoms such as high fever, vomiting, lethargy and limb weakness, parents must rush them to the hospital or seek some medical advice.
“They must report any cases like this in order for the DOH to act immediately our next step,” Tayag told the reporters.
He said the DOH had already directed all hospitals and medical centers to report to the department any cases that could be similar to the illnesses caused by the virus.
There is no travel restriction yet to and from Cambodia on Tuesday despite the deaths caused by the virus, according to Tayag.
"Hindi pa kailangan, kasi unang-una mga bata lang 'yong nagkakasakit. Pangalawa, nalimit 'yong spread unfortunately maraming namatay kasi pag namatay, the virus dies with the person at hindi na-ispread po," he said.
[It's not yet needed because children were the only ones who got sick. Second, the spread of the virus is limited because once the victim dies, the virus dies with the person thus it can no longer spread.]
Nonetheless, airport authorities and the Bureau of Quarantine at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City continue to be on the lookout for incoming passengers at all three international airport terminals for passengers showing symptoms of high fever.
As part of the airport’s precautionary measures, human quarantine officers assigned on each incoming flight spray “Coopex” germ disinfectants on aircraft cabins to extinguish disease-carrying pathogens.
Children who often bite and eat with their unwashed hands are vulnerable to the illness caused by the virus, according to Tayag.
"Nakakahawa ang Enterovirus 71 sa mga bata, lalo na't sinusubo nga nila ang kamay nila sa bibig nila. Nakakahawa to sapagkat makukuha mo ito sa direct contact sa secretion kasama ng laway tsaka dumi." Tayag said.
[Children who often put their hands in their mouth get infected with Enterovirus 71. It is infectious because you can contract it through secretion of saliva with dirt.]
According to DOH, proper hand washing and strict personal hygiene will limit the spread of the virus.