25 September 2023

DEPUTY Majority Leader and Iloilo First District Representative Janette Garin said that official reports and safety precautions should be issued to prevent Filipinos from acquiring the virus.

The former health secretary said it is not yet time to panic due to NiV. However, she pointed out that the public must be informed about the virus and its symptoms.

“Dapat ay mayroong actual and reliable information to the general public without being an alarmist so hindi po pwedeng takutin ‘yung tao pero dapat alam nila ‘yung totoo at bakit nangyayari ito,” Garin said in an interview with DZBB on Sunday.

The lawmaker also called for immediate collaboration between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) for aggressive surveillance.

“From Ebola to Zika to MERSCOV to COVID-19 to Nipah. This overemphasizes the need to prioritize Surveillance Centers in each DOH Regional Hospital immediately. Little investment in office and experts can go a long way,” Garin, a doctor, said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Nipah virus is usually transmitted from animals to humans, adding that people can also become infected if they have close contact with an infected animal or its body fluids.

Garin said that the Philippines is not new to NiV as the country had cases in 2014 with documented transmission from fruit bats to horses to humans in which the feeds of horses were contaminated with bat urine and secretions.

“Resilient as we are, we were able to contain it. It was one of my ‘baptism of fire’ when I joined DOH. I have strong faith in our experts, but information from them should be laymanized to the public,” the lawmaker said.

The Deputy Majority Leader advised the public to wash fruits and vegetables, properly cook meat, and do handwashing to be safe from viruses. She also suggested that individuals who experience persistent fever and moderate to severe headache should consult a doctor.

“Washing fruits and vegetables should not be taken for granted. Not only Nipah but other viruses as well. Teach our children the importance of washing fruits and not directly eating them from the trees—frequently handwashing with soap and water. Proper hygiene. These are lifesaving measures. Should Always be remembered, never to be forgotten,” Garin pointed out.

“Fruit bats are part of Philippine ecology. We live with them and ensure we don’t stress them out, but if ever they get sick, we ensure that viruses transmitted to animals and/or humans should have no human-to-human transmission. Persistent fever, especially if accompanied by moderate to severe headache, are red flags,” the Iloilo lawmaker added.