March 1, 2024

The sudden uptick in cases of respiratory illnesses or respiratory influenza-like illness (ILI) was due to the stronger monitoring and surveillance of the government in the health sector after the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Department of Health.

DOH Asec. for Public Health Services Mylene Beltran, during a public inquiry by the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said this surge of cases is similar to the trends that the Department has recorded in similar previous periods, globally.

“Any ILI case is now being monitored compared to Covid-19 that only Covid-19 cases were being monitored,” Beltran told the panel noting that so far no local government unit has declared an outbreak.

Beltran cited the lifting of health restrictions and the population crowding and being more mobile as reasons.

“We have already set in place mechanisms and systems to be able to be more prepared and we’ve learned lessons from the Covid-19 experience,” she assured.

Although it is currently voluntary, Beltran said DOH encourages everyone to wear face masks.

ILI, she said, covers those suffering from fever or experiencing respiratory signs or symptoms like sore throat or cough.

DOH Epidemiology Bureau Chief, Dr. Alethea de Guzman said influenza, Covid-19, or even the walking pneumonia almost have the same symptoms.

“The way to determine is to give a sample. Throat swab or we call the oropharyngeal swabs and nasopharyngeal swabs NPS,” de Guzman said.

She urged young ones, elders, and those who have comorbidities experiencing ILI symptoms to be tested in hospitals or at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Razel Nikka Hao, chief of DOH’s Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, emphasized the importance of observing minimum public health standards like cough and other respiratory etiquette.

Hao also noted that aside from flu and pneumonia, the DOH has been providing influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, especially for indigent elders.

“This year, we were able to distribute these across the regions by August and every yearit is being procured and being distributed by the Department of Health. So, rest assured next year, we are actually expanding that it’s not just anymore the indigent but other adults with comorbidities will be able to use the pneumococcal and influenza vaccines,” she said.

The panel being chaired by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go conducted an inquiry into the matter in response to the resolution filed by Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva to look into the preparedness of the government on the reported global rise of respiratory illnesses. – PNA