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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, October 28, 2014
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The Ebola test

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When Health Secretary Enrique Ona recently told a Senate hearing that the Philippine government is ready for the Ebola virus, many Filipinos were incredulous. After all, if the deadly virus was able to get into a first world country like the United States, how can we expect a country with a struggling public health care system and a significant chunk of its population spread all over the world, most of whom are scheduled to flood the airports as the holiday season approaches, effectively prevent the entry of Ebola and contain the infectious disease if it does reach our shores?

Ona gave the assurance that government and private hospitals are equipped to handle Ebola patients. He told the Senate health committee hearing last week that the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa, the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila and the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City have designated isolation rooms for Ebola patients. He adds that hospitals in Western Visayas, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Bicol, Tuguegarao and Baguio City have also prepared isolation rooms in anticipation of Ebola cases.

The Philippines has thus far been fortunate where Ebola is concerned, avoiding cases despite our porous borders and border controls, but although gains have been made on the global front, the threat is far from over,  and we cannot rely on luck alone to protect us from an infectious and potentially deadly disease like the Ebola. We will only know if the DOH and all the other concerned government agencies are ready to track down, quarantine and treat the disease if an infected person does enter our country.  And because Ebola is an infectious disease, our government also has to be prepared to undertake the laborious task of tracking every known contact that might have been infected and observing those contacts for a prescribed time in order to prevent an outbreak.

Our understanding of the Ebola virus has most definitely improved over the past few months. Despite its reputation for being lethal and highly infectious, most of those who have been infected in the United States have survived and Nigeria has even declared itself Ebola free after it was carried in by an infected Liberian American via the Lagos airport. It managed to infect 20 people and killed 7 in Lagos before a determined Nigerian government controlled and eradicated the virus.

There will only be one way to tell if our DOH and all the other concerned government agencies are truly prepared for Ebola, but for now, let us continue to hope and pray the deadly virus doesn’t enter our shores and our government does not have to be tested.*


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