Press Release
June 10, 2009

To prepare Filipino students and parents as world inches closer to a pandemic
Angara to DepEd: Conduct a week-long orientation on A (H1N1)
 and other health concerns

Sen. Edgardo J. Angara today urged the Department of Education to conduct a similar action implemented during the global outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) back in 2003 wherein the Department conducted a week-long orientation on SARS, this he said as the World Health Organization announces that the world is inching closer towards a pandemic.

"The A/H1N1 virus, like many influenza strands, undergoes rapid genetic mutation and reassortment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against a possible mutation of H1N1 to a more virulent form, one which could ignite a deadly pandemic. This fear is becoming more imminent each day, as the virus has now reached Africa, and continues to spread internationally. The WHO's latest report revealed that there are now 26,563 cases in 73 countries, of which 140 has died," said Angara who formerly chaired the Senate Committee on Health.

According to the WHO, the severity of A/H1N1's impact on a population depends on its overall vulnerability. It can be more severe and lethal to those who have cardiovascular disease, hypertension, asthma, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, among others. Malnourished children are especially vulnerable to A/H1N1.

He added, "Malnutrition has been a widespread problem plaguing pupil performance and hindering our children from achieving their potential. And because A/H1N1 is transferred through person-to-person contact, this vulnerability among our malnourished youth makes cramped classrooms an excellent conductor of the virus."

Angara cited that now that the virus has penetrated the classrooms of our colleges, we should not wait any second longer and step up precautionary measures before it reaches our young ones at school. The lack of a vaccine against A/H1N1, along with the speed it has spread in the country, should be enough warning that A/H1N1 should not be taken lightly, he added.

Schools in the United States, upon discovery of A/H1N1 flu cases in their vicinity, opted to temporarily close classes to prevent the spread of the disease in school. No matter how trite it sounds, prevention is still better than cure.

Two weeks ago, before classes began, fourteen cases of the A/H1N1 virus have already been confirmed in the Philippines. Dep Ed, however, decided to push through with the opening of classes. As of last week, the number of confirmed A/H1N1 cases in the country has climbed to twenty-nine, including a foreign student who has started classes in De La Salle University before being diagnosed.

According to the Department of Health, there is currently no need to be alarmed, as the cases have been sporadic and has not sustained community-wide transmission. It also notes that the A/H1N1 cases in the Philippines are a mild form of influenza, and patients have responded well to medication.

The senator, who is the primary author of the PhilHealth Act, said that this kind of pay-as-you-go mentality over the "mildness" of A/H1N1 cases in the Philippines is unfortunate, and could leave us off guard should a more lethal strain of A/H1N1 appears.

Angara suggested repeating a DepEd action conducted during the global outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) back in 2003, wherein the Department carried out a week-long orientation on SARS and other health concerns for parents and students in public schools in the first week of June, before officially starting classes on the second week.

"Even if already tardy, we should implement a similar scheme, now that the number of cases of A/H1N1 is on the rise," suggested Angara.

According to WHO's guidelines, a pandemic could be declared if there would be a established community spread in a country outside the first region in which the disease was initially reported.

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