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Time to move from ‘blanket testing’ to ‘sentinel surveillance,’ says gov’t health expert

/ 11:14 PM January 12, 2022
‘IHU’ COVID-19 variant not a threat at this time, says gov't expert

Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana is the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the National Institutes of Health at the University of the Philippines Manila. (Photo from an RTVM video)

MANILA, Philippines — It’s time for the government to move away from “blanket testing” and instead opt for “sentinel surveillance,” which will lead to reduced testing, Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the Department of Health (DOH) Technical Advisory Group, said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

“The reason why we have been testing is because of the pandemic, but the thing is in the US they’re going on over 1 million cases reported in one day, and this is not sustainable,” Salvana said.

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“The most important action point is that there are many many people who are already vaccinated, which means that if you are vaccinated and you’re not in the vulnerable population most likely 99.9 percent of the time you will recover and you won’t require any antivirals and you won’t need to be hospitalized,” he added.

According to Salvana,  this is exactly what happens with influenza. Yet nobody gets tested for it as health experts opt to go for sentinel sampling — which refers to the random sampling of individuals from a community susceptible to the infection.

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“What we do with the flu is basically we just do sentinel sampling if there are issues about it. If we want to treat or somebody has to be hospitalized that’s the time that we test,” Salvana said. “So very important now that we start to wean ourselves from blanket testing.”

According to Salvana, the response would need to be tailored depending on whether it would impact clinical management.

“And if we have most people in place already fully vaccinated, then you know it really won’t change our clinical management. So it might be better to just be more efficient by just doing sentinel surveillance,” Salvana said.

“More importantly for people who are already symptomatic, just isolate so they won’t spread [the coronavirus],” he added.

In the same briefing, the DOH issued its latest guidelines on quarantine and isolation periods for COVID-19 close contacts and positive persons, reducing the duration for fully vaccinated people.

The country is currently dealing with aggressive increases in coronavirus infections following the holidays with 208,164 having COVID-19.

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