CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines -- The Department of Health (DoH) on Sunday declared a community-level outbreak of the Influenza A(H1N1) virus in a farming village in Nueva Ecija province, as the 92 contacts of 11 children who tested positive for the virus there, exhibited flu symptoms.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III approved the declaration after a two-week surveillance on Hilera village in Jaen town, said Doctor Rio Magpantay, DoH Central Luzon director
"There is an outbreak," Magpantay told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) in a text message.
A DoH team found "epidemiological link" among the 11 confirmed cases and their contacts, Magpantay said, adding, "There's local transmission."
On Sunday, the DoH announced that the country had 147 confirmed cases of the A(H1N1) flu with no fatality.
So far, Hilera is the first community that has been placed on an outbreak status.
The 11 confirmed cases -- 10 students of the Hilera Elementary School (HES) and a 4-year-old child -- were among the 103 people stricken with influenza-like illnesses between May 29 and June 12 in the village.
Magpantay said that meant that 6.3 percent of the village's population of 1,622 have been affected, he said.
The 11 positive cases belonged to the first batch of 15 children who underwent testing for the A(H1N1) flu. They have been recovering well with home-based treatment, Magpantay said. Four of the 15 people in that batch tested negative for the virus.
Magpantay said no one among those sick had traveled abroad. The DoH said a source of exposure to the virus could be a team of doctors and nurses who held a medical mission in the HES in May.
Results of throat swabbing on the second batch of 19 people have yet to be released.
"We are managing it well through early detection and aggressive treatment. Symptoms are mild. Our concern now is how to take care of high risk groups -- the very young and the elderly," Magpantay said.
He said he did not recommend making Hilera off-limits to outsiders or prohibiting residents from leaving the village.
"Those are not necessary. The symptoms are mild, and we're very thankful to God. We have enhanced our mitigation efforts. The positive ones are confined at home and receiving their supplies of Tamiflu. The rest are provided antibiotics and Vitamin C," he said. "It should be business as usual."
But classes at the HES would remain suspended to prevent the further transmission of the virus, he said.
It is in that school that the DoH has set up its command post for residents volunteering to undergo checkup for symptoms of the A(H1N1) flu.
Aside from the 30 health personnel ent to the area, the DoH on Saturday started mobilizing barangay (village) health workers to do home visits in neighboring villages of Kalabasa, Pitak, Pakul and Lambakin to identify the people there with flu symptoms.
With the outbreak status, Jaen Mayor Santiago Austria said the local government would continue to support DoH measures in Hilera and four other villages.
On Friday night, Magpantay said DoH personnel took throat swabs from 20 residents in Pakul and Lambakin to test them for the virus. Pakul has 39 people with influenza-like illness while Lambakin monitored 52 between May 27 and June 12.
The attack rates in Pakul and Lambakin are three percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. Their ages range from six months to 68 years old, but most of them are between 6 and 15 years old.