In September 2012, a virus resembling Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was discovered in Jeddah Saudi Arabia. It was initially named as novel coronavirus (nCoV), but now officially called as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Like SARS, patients diagnosed with MERS-CoV showed acute, serious respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. Most MERS-CoV confirmed patients have had pneumonia and gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea.

Though symptoms were based only on mere confirmed cases, several studies are now being done in Saudi Arabia and other affected areas to analyze the disease. At present, there is no concrete evidence on how people become infected with the virus. Investigations are underway to determine its source, types of exposure that lead to infection, mode of transmission, clinical patterns and the course of the disease.

Initial studies have confirmed human-to-human transmission which occurred either in a health care facility or among close family members. However, the transmission mechanism in all of these cases, whether respiratory (e.g. coughing, sneezing) or contact (contamination of the environment by the patient), is still unknown.

Since its discovery in September 2012 to April 26 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 261 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection including 93 deaths.

Impacts to the Filipinos

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East and nearby countries have higher risks of contracting the virus due to exposure to the MERS-CoV infected areas. At the moment, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have issued a MERS-CoV advisory for Filipino communities in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the DOH continuously conducts information drive for the public especially for OFWs and international travellers arriving the Philippines. To avoid getting infected with the virus, the DOH is encouraging everyone to be vigilant and conscious on personal health and hygiene.

WHO advisory

Based on the current situation and available information, the WHO encourages all Member States to continue in the surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

The WHO also reiterated that infection prevention and control measures are critical to stop the possible spread of MERS-CoV in health care facilities. Health-care facilities providing services to patients suspected or confirmed to be infected with MERS-CoV should take appropriate measures to decrease the risk of transmission. It is also important that health-care workers apply standard precautions consistently with all patients – regardless of their diagnosis – in all work practices all the time.

References:

  1. DOH Advisory to travellers - http://www.gov.ph/2014/04/22/advisory-doh-health-alert-notice-for-international-travelers-arriving-in-ph/
  2. DOH infographic - http://www.gov.ph/2014/04/22/infographic-paalala-ukol-sa-mers-cov/
  3. DFA-DOH advisory to Filipino communities in Middle East - http://www.gov.ph/2014/04/23/poea-issues-precaution-on-mers-cov-for-newly-hired-and-returning-ofws/

The Philippine National Health System (PNHRS) will be celebrating its 8th PNHRS week on 12-14 August, 2014 at Radisson Blu Hotel, Cebu City with the theme: “Research and Innovation  in Health  for Disaster and Emergency Health Management”.

Hosted by Central Visayas Consortium for Health and Research Development (CVCHRD), the PNHRS week will focus on the role of health research in disaster and emergency health management. This event will enable health research stakeholders to interact, learn from each other and share evidenced-based information to contribute in establishing the country’s responsive disaster and emergency health management systems.

More than 500 participants nationwide coming from the 17 regional health research consortia are expected to participate in the event. For more information, please contact PNHRS Secretariat at telephone numbers: (02) 837-7534 or (02) 837-7537 or visit PNHRS website at http://www.healthresearch.ph/.

PNHRS Week is held annually on the second week of August by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 1309 signed in 2007.

Filipino and Japanese researchers detected human adenovirus (HAdV) serotype 7, a virus causing acute lower respiratory infection, among young infants who suffered from severe pneumonia and causing high fatality rate.

Pneumonia is a form of respiratory infection affecting lungs, which is the leading cause of death in children worldwide. Caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi, pneumonia may develop to severe stage when the child has difficulty in breathing, inability to eat, lethargy, unconsciousness, vomiting, and convulsions.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), different pathogens causing pneumonia and its transmission are in need of more research as these are crucial for its treatment and prevention.

Focusing on pneumonia cases at Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC), a tertiary governmental hospital located in Tacloban city, researchers found that a number of baby patients with severe pneumonia were also HAdV-positive and the fatality rate of these cases was considerably high (44%).

In fatal cases, infants began to show respiratory symptoms within seven days prior to admission and all died due to secondary respiratory failure within three days (two cases within 24 hours) of admission, indicating a rapid deterioration caused by HAdV infection.

Sustained monitoring on the basis of molecular epidemiological methods is required to reveal background of pneumonia patients with HAdV infections [and] to further develop public health strategies,” researchers proposed.

The study is published in the Journal of Japanese Infectious Disease in 2014 and also available online in Pubmed at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pudmed.

In January this year, the Department of Health (DOH) alerted the public with several announcements of measles outbreak in several districts and provinces of the country. Thus, DOH launched the “Goodbye Tigdas,” an expanded catch-up measles vaccination campaign in the National Capital Region (NCR), CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and in the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga in Central Luzon from January 23 to February 3, 2014.

The DOH continues to warn the public about the spread of the disease this summer as hot weather tends to weaken the immune system making it vulnerable to virus infection.

Measles, commonly known as tigdas, is known to be potentially deadly and highly infectious. This viral infection is transmitted through respiration or contact with fluids from an infected person’s mouth and nose. Though the virus may also infect adults, children 10 years old and below are the most susceptible.

Symptoms of Infection

The period of incubation, or the time elapsed between infection entering the body and the appearance of symptoms, varies from seven to 14 days. The symptoms begin with mild to moderate fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and sore throat. After two to three days, Koplik’s spots or tiny white spots with bluish-white centers begin to appear inside the mouth. Then, red or reddish-brown rash starts appear on a person’s face, down the neck, arms, legs and feet.  The fever will now rise up to 40 degrees Celsius.

Complications

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of reported measles cases have one or more complications and is common among children younger than five years of age and adults 20 years of age and older. Complication of measles include: ear infection, diarrhea, bronchitis or laryngitis, pneumonia, encephalitis, pregnancy problems and thrombocytopenia or low platelet count.

Treatment

There is no specific drug for Measles virus. Treatment recommended by experts usually aims only to relieve the symptoms until the immune system fights off the virus. Helpful measures are as follows:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated and reduce discomfort caused by coughing.
  2. Take medicines to ease fever and aches and pains. Do not take antibiotics as it doesn’t kill the virus.
  3. See a doctor when the symptoms get worse or any complication is suspected.

Prevention

Vaccines are available and highly effective and safe. Infants aged six months could already have the first dose of the vaccine and should be followed by a booster dose at 12 to 15 months of age.  For children, adolescents and adults with incomplete or no vaccination, the Department of Health is providing the trivalent measles vaccine or the MMR vaccine against mumps, measles, and rubella. For more information about the DOH immunization programs, contact your local health centers.

 

References:

WHO Fact Sheet on Measles www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/
DOH Measles Update www.doh.gov.ph

 
Dr. Encarnita Raya-Ampil at PCHRD 32nd Anniversary

In taking care of people with dementia, family members and workers in the Philippines found to practice non-pharmacological (no drugs) therapies at home such as reminiscence and music, according to Dr. Encarnita Raya-Ampil of the University of Santo Tomas during the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) 32nd Anniversary.

About 35.6 million people suffer from dementia worldwide with 7.7 million new cases every year based on the World Health Organization (WHO) report. Although dementia is not curable, medication and non-pharmacological therapies are necessary to improve the quality of life of dementia patients. Yet, with poverty and expensive cost of dementia treatments, Dr. Ampil said many patients in the country could not afford such treatments.

Exploring non-pharmacological therapies for dementia patients, Dr. Ampil and her co-researchers initially found low-cost interventions that could be administered at home: reminiscence therapy and music therapy. In reminiscence therapy, dementia patients are encouraged to remember by discussing past activities, events, and life experiences using photographs, household and other familiar items. Alternatively, music therapy allows patients to listen to familiar music, play instruments, and write songs.

“These simple non-pharmacological therapies such as reminiscence and music can be standardized so that people at home can easily give them to people with dementia,” advised Dr. Ampil.

Dementia is a syndrome in which memory, thinking, behaviour, and the ability to perform everyday activities begin to deteriorate, affecting mainly older people.