DOH gives tips on how Filipinos can avoid Ebola virus
MANILA, Philippines —Wash your hands regularly. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief when coughing. Avoid being overworked and get enough rest and sleep.
The Department of Health has said the Philippines will likely remain free of the deadly Ebola virus, but it is still issuing tips to help Filipinos avoid the disease that has killed more than 800 people amid an outbreak in West Africa, where thousands of Filipinos are known to work.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Health Secretary Enrique Ona also assured the public that his agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) have been closely coordinating the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers from three countries affected by the virus.
As of July 31, the number of cases in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia has reached 1,323 with 729 deaths, accounting for a 55 percent fatality rate.
Nearly 3,500 Filipinos are working in the three Ebola-hit West African countries. Records from the DFA have shown that there are 880 Filipinos deployed in Guinea; 1,979 in Sierra Leone and 632 in Liberia, including the 148 peacekeepers for the United Nations.
Ona said the DOH has continued to closely monitor seven OFWs who returned in batches last month from Sierra Leone.
Health authorities will wait for the lapse of the 30-day incubation period or until August 28 before the seven can be declared safe from the virus. So far, the seven Filipino migrants have not shown any symptoms of the disease.
“But if Ebola affects a Filipino worker, we have all the necessary capacity, laboratory tests as well as negative pressure rooms where we can confine them,” Ona told reporters.
He noted that the virus spreads among humans through direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids like blood, feces or urine and vomit.
“That’s why it is very important that as a general rule, we must make hand washing a habit after contact with any bodily fluid, especially after using the toilet, after coughing and before eating,” advised Ona.
It would also help if Filipinos would observe a healthy lifestyle by eating right and by avoiding getting overworked or exposed to extreme temperatures, and getting adequate sleep and rest, he said.
“This is our general advice to everybody especially to Filipinos who are now in those countries affected by the virus,” said Ona.
“But just to assure our people, we are ready and at the same time there is no need to worry because the national government, our offices are taking all the necessary measures so that the virus will not reach our country,” he added.
To ensure the welfare of Filipinos in Ebola-stricken countries, recruitment agencies have already been ordered to closely monitor OFWs they deployed to 65 employers in the three West African countries, said Nini Lanto, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration director for OFW health concerns.
In case of infection among OFWs there, these agencies must immediately report to the POEA, the DOH and the DFA, added Lanto.
She reiterated on Tuesday that the labor department has already imposed a partial deployment ban on the three countries, which took effect early last month.
Lorenzo Jungco, special assistant from the DFA Office for Migrant Workers, said Filipinos in the three countries have so far remained healthy. “Our concern is our contingent with the UN peacekeeping as they are more exposed,” said Jungco.
“But we have been closely monitoring the situation, we are coordinating with the governments of the three countries to make sure that our people there are protected,” he added.
He also advised Filipino seafarers passing through the Ebola-stricken countries to avoid disembarking their vessels and to refrain from dealing with “akyat barko girls,” ship-climbing girls or prostitutes known to get on docked ships to offer sex to the crew.
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