DOH attributes death of OFW from China to “Bird Flu”

By , on February 23, 2015

DOH Acting Sec. Garin (PNA Photo)
DOH Acting Sec. Garin (PNA Photo)

MANILA — The death of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) who returned from China was a possible case of “Bird Flu,” according to the Department of Health.

“The patient was considered a possible case of Avian Flu or Bird Flu,” said DOH Acting Secretary Janette L. Garin in a press briefing held at the DOH Media Relations Unit in Tayuman, Manila.

Garin said such conclusion was based on the symptoms shown by the patient, past progression of the illness, plus the history of travel from China coupled with a history of being exposed to live poultry.

She said that the patient worked as a musician in China for six years, who decided to return in the country because he felt that his family could better take care of him.

Garin said that it was possible that the patient got the bird flu virus upon exposing himself to the bird-flu infected live chickens in a market in China.

She clarified, however, that while the patient possibly died due to “Bird Flu,” the country is still in a Bird-Flu status for the virus since the patient got that in China.

While the patient filled up the health declaration form, (the yellow paper) the patient did not truthfully answered the important questions regarding his health status.

The patient arrived in the country on Feb. 9 without any fever when he passed the thermal scanner at the airport.

“It is most likely that he was already aware that he was sick at that time and has fever but since he had taken medicine the fever subsided and therefore not detected,” Garin said.

On Feb. 10, the symptoms like cough, fever and severe abdominal pain started to be noticed by his close family members.

On Feb. 11, he sought consultation and came back to the hospital on the following day upon noticing of worsening condition, which lead to his death on Feb. 14.

“The patient was initially referred to DOH as possible case of MERSCoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus, however upon review of his case, Avian Flu was decided to be a more proximate findings,” the DOH Health Secretary further said.

She also said that as precautionary measure, the DOH gave prophylaxis using Tamiflu for one week period for those who had close contact with him.

Upon close monitoring through the guidance of experts from Hongkong, it was learned that none (among those that the patient had close contacts) had exhibited symptoms.

She assured that DOH continues close coordination with the experts from Hong Kong for further guidance.

Biopsy was also done by the trained personnel who all utilized personal protective equipments (PPEs) as protective gears.

The DOH initially considered autopsy but later refused the idea upon considering the danger of performing it and the environmental effects of doing such.

“For that reason we are advised to perform a guided biopsy, fully guided by the protocol that Hongkong issued to us,” she said.

The initial results of the biopsy came out on Saturday and Sunday that revealed pulmonary findings but “inconclusive” due to the fact that the samples taken were during the time the patient was declared dead.

“The body was cremated (last night) and this case was declared ‘closed’,” she added.

She also clarified that if the suspicion regarding the death of the patient was really attributable to “Bird Flu,” the death had cut all the possibilities of transmission to humans.

“Therefore, there is nothing to be alarm with,” the DOH chief said.

But she reminded that still, there is a need for further vigilance and proper widespread of information for the countrymen on countries where the cases of Avian Flu are active especially in Southern China and areas near Hong Kong.

She cited that it is important that Filipino workers overseas should be reminded to fully declare in health declaration checklist only true information, practice good hygiene and push for more immediate consultation.

The A (H5N1) virus subtype, is a highly pathogenic Al virus that first infected humans in 1997 during a SARS poultry outbreak in Hong Kong, China.

Since its widespread re-emergence in 2003 and 2004, this avian virus has spread from Asia to Europe and Africa and has become entrenched in poultry in some countries, resulting in millions of poultry infections.

It resulted in several human cases and many human deaths.

The outbreaks have also greatly affected the livelihood, economy and international trade in affected countries due to the ban on importing poultry products.

The other subtype is the A(H7N9) virus is a low pathogenic Al virus that first infected three people — two residents of the city of Shanghai and one resident of Anhui province –in March 2013.

Usually, the containment measures involve closure of live bird market for several months.

Both A(H5N1) and A(H7N9) viruses in poultry were endemic that continues to pose threat to public health as these viruses have both the potential to cause serious infection in people and may have the potential to change into a form that is more transmissible among humans.

Initial symptoms to humans infected with avian flu include high fever, usually with a temperature higher than 38°C, and other influenza-like symptoms (cough or sore throat).

Diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, chest pain, and bleeding from the nose and gums have also been reported as early symptoms in some patients.

Treatment is supportive meaning treating of the patient is based on the symptoms.

It may be recalled that on Friday (Feb. 20) Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said during a press briefing with the DOH on Food Safety Act of 2013 that they were not allowing the entry of birds from China due to Avian Flu as a health protective measure to ensure that the said virus would not enter the country.