DOH on alert over viral pneumonia

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    HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque III yesterday ordered the Bureau of Quarantine to conduct strict checks on travelers from China amid reports of cases of a mysterious viral pneumonia in the Chinese central city of Wuhan.

    Duque said the bureau has been placed on alert to intensify the surveillance of incoming travelers, especially those manifesting fever or signs of respiratory infection.

    “I urge the public, especially those with history of travel from China, to seek immediate medical consultation if experiencing any flu-like symptoms,” Duque said.

    “Let us also embrace a healthy lifestyle, practice proper hand hygiene, and observe cough etiquette to prevent transmission of respiratory infections,” he added.

    The intensified surveillance was in response to 44 reported cases of the mysterious viral pneumonia, which sparked fears on a resurgence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS.

    Chinese municipal health officials in Wuhan said on Friday they had ruled out common respiratory diseases, such as influenza, bird flu and adenovirus infection, as the cause.

    Clean-up efforts at a seafood market where some victims were vendors have been completed, the city officials said, adding that no obvious human-to-human transmission had been seen and no medical staff had been infected.

    In 2003, Chinese officials covered up a SARS outbreak for weeks before a growing death toll and rumors forced the government to reveal the epidemic, apologize, and vow full candor regarding future outbreaks.

    The disease, which emerged in southern China late in 2002, spread rapidly to other cities and countries in 2003. More than 8,000 people were infected and 775 died.

    The World Health Organization has said it was aware of the reports on the mystery pneumonia. – With Reuters