Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, called on the Department of Health (DOH) and other relevant agencies to implement stringent measures to prevent the potential spread of the Nipah virus (NiV).
In response to these concerns, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire reassured the public that there is no Nipah virus outbreak yet in the country.
“Maraming eskwelahan ngayon are suspending classes or shifting to virtual (classes) because of increasing flu-like illness happening among students. In Cagayan de Oro (City), meron pong nagsuspende ng klase and apparently may kumalat na Nipah virus yung concern. Upon verification with our regional epidemiological and surveillance unit in Northern Mindanao, wala po silang confirmed na Nipah virus in relation dun sa kumakalat na balita,” shared Vergeire during the health budget hearing on Thursday, September 28.
“Dito ho sa Pilipinas, wala po tayong detection. Meron po tayo nung huli, noong 2014 sa Sultan Kudarat, where there are a number of individuals in the community na na-detect ito. Pero sa ngayon po, wala tayong nade-detect,” the health official reassured.
The Nipah virus, as identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a zoonotic illness that can be transmitted from animals to humans. What sets it apart from other diseases is its high fatality rate, ranging from 50 to 70 percent. This means that it poses a significant risk, affecting three to four out of every five infected individuals.
The primary mode of transmission for Nipah virus infections is direct contact with sick pigs or their contaminated tissues. The virus can also be transmitted through unsafe contact with pig secretions and tissues. This highlights the importance of maintaining good hygiene and proper handling practices within the livestock industry.
Meanwhile, outbreaks of the Nipah virus have occurred in countries like Bangladesh and India, where people fell ill after consuming fruits and raw date palm juice contaminated with the urine or saliva of infected fruit bats.
“Mga kababayan ko, nais kong paalalahanan ang kahalagahan ng kalusugan at kaligtasan natin laban sa anumang health threats tulad nitong Nipah virus (NiV). Sa panahong ito, hindi natin dapat kalimutan ang mga hakbang na kinakailangan upang mapanatili ang ating kalusugan at kaligtasan mula sa anumang panganib,” stressed Go.
“Huwag kalimutang sumunod sa mga payo ng mga eksperto sa kalusugan. Mahalaga ang tamang hygiene, katulad ng paghuhugas ng kamay, at pagsusuot ng masks kung kinakailangan. Maiiwasan natin ang pagkalat ng sakit kung tayo ay magiging maingat,” he continued.
Recognizing the need to strengthen the healthcare system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Go has filed bills proposing the creation of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) and the Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Malaki ang naging epekto sa buhay natin sa COVID. Maraming pagbabago, marami tayong natutunan. Lessons learned ang mga ito. Hindi natin alam kung kailan darating ang bagong pandemya sa buhay natin. Mas mabuting maging proactive at mas handa tayo,” he said.
Senate Bill No. 195, as outlined, envisions CDC as the primary organization entrusted with the leadership of initiatives aimed at managing and preventing infectious diseases. Its core responsibilities encompass the formulation of policies and standards, disease surveillance and detection, data collection and analysis, public health communication, as well as research and evidence synthesis, all geared towards mitigating the transmission of communicable diseases within the nation.
“Ibig sabihin mas kontrolado natin, alam na natin at ang mga data ay mas kumpleto. So, ito po ‘yung tinatawag na proposed Center for Disease Control and Prevention Act. Napaka-importante po ma-maintain natin ang active surveillance of diseases dahil, alam nyo, nabigla tayo noong COVID-19,” Go pointed out.
Meanwhile, according to the proposed SBN 196, the VIP will serve as a specialized hub for virology-centered investigations, research, and technical coordination across the entire network of virology laboratories nationwide. Under this proposed legislation, VIP will offer guidance for the establishment and operation of testing, reference, and biosafety laboratories at Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 in various regions throughout the country.
Image credits: Bibo Nueva España/Senate PRIB