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DOH urges public not to panic amid flu-like illnesses in several schools

By NICK GARCIA Published Sep 29, 2023 11:57 am Updated Sep 29, 2023 2:38 pm

A Department of Health (DOH) official urged the public not to panic amid the uptick of reported flu-like illnesses in different parts of the Philippines, which prompted several schools to suspend classes if not shift to online mode.

"Maraming mga eskuwelahan ngayon are suspending classes or shifting to virtual because of the increasing flu-like illness happening among students," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a Senate budget hearing on Sept. 28.

Vergeire cited as an example Ateneo de Manila Grade School in Quezon City, which transitioned to online classes due to some students exhibiting flu-like symptoms. These include fever, chills, dry cough, loss of appetite, body aches, nausea, and sneezing.

The DOH official said it's been the same "even in other schools in the country."

There have been fears that the flu-like symptoms from Cagayan De Oro and elsewhere are caused by Nipah virus, which usually spreads to humans from animals like bats or pigs. According to the World Health Organization, it can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people.

The DOH, however, stressed that there's no detection of the virus yet in the Philippines.

"Mayroon lamang po talagang pagtaas ng kaso ng flu-like illness, and it's not just happening in Cagayan De Oro," she said.

Dr. Tony Leachon, a health reform advocate who previously served as DOH special adviser for non-communicable diseases, told PhilSTAR L!fe that they have also noticed an uptick of flu cases "based on account of parents in school activities."

"There must be validation of these cases," he noted, adding that flu-like symptoms are common these days.

Leachon reminded the public to follow general good-health guidelines to "naturally" make the immune system work.

Measures include avoiding smoking, reducing alcohol intake, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting adequate sleep.

Individuals must also wash their hands frequently and cook meat thoroughly. They must also keep current with all recommended vaccines. (with reports from Brooke Villanueva)