December 6, 2023

The Department of Health is setting in place measures against a virus that rarely causes an outbreak, but has the potential to cause an epidemic.

DOH-Cordillera Medical Officer IV Jennifer Joyce Pira said the agency is conducting regional and provincial coordination in relation to the Henipavirus, which recorded an outbreak in India last month.

Pira said while the situation does not pose a major problem for the country at the moment, the public must be vigilant, report, and seek early consultation when experiencing unusual symptoms.

She said they are set to hold meetings to discuss specific protocols on how to deal with the Nipah virus, even if no positive case was reported yet in the Philippines.

In the meantime, Pira said the preventive measures that were implemented against the Covid-19 can be observed to be safe from the virus that is found in fruit bats.

“Let us avoid going to areas with bats since they are the carriers of the virus and also make sure to wash food and fruits thoroughly. Also, let’s be vigilant and report unusual symptoms immediately,” she said.

The World Health Organization said while Nipah outbreaks are rare, it listed the disease as one of those deserving of priority research for their potential to cause a global epidemic like Ebola, Covid-19, and Zika.

The Philippine Interagency Committee on Zoonoses (PhilCZ) has earlier clarified there is no Nipah virus positive case yet in the country, but advised the public to practice behaviors that will help prevent the disease and its transmission.

The Philippines recorded an outbreak of Nipah virus in 2014, but the PhilCZ said there were no cases recorded in the country since then. The outbreak, which was then recorded in Sultan Kudarat, affected horses then transmitted to humans.

The WHO said the Henipaviruses that are commonly found in bats and can cause illnesses in pigs, horses, dogs, and people through direct contact with the blood, urine, feces, saliva, respiratory droplets, or consumption of contaminated food.

The WHO reported the infection may present as flu-like symptoms, but are associated with swelling of the brain and respiratory illnesses.

Aside from India, Nipah virus outbreaks were also recorded in Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Singapore. – Jane B. Cadalig