MANILA CITY— During the press briefing at the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe clarified that having symptoms of respiratory illnesses such as flu does not automatically mean having COVID-19.
“We want to clearly define who is affected, find out if there is transmission beyond the cases we have confirmed, and identify who else might be at risk. The mere fact that you have respiratory tract infection does not mean you need to be tested for COVID-19,” Dr. Abeyasinghe said, assuaging the mounting public panic.
Offering an explanation as to why a lot more people are presenting with symptoms of respiratory infection, he added that “we are in that season where we see a lot of flu.” WHO maintains that practicing social distancing, frequent hand hygiene, and proper cough etiquette are still the best preventive measures against the community transmission of the virus.
DOH Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque announced on the same occasion that the wife of the fifth positive patient is the sixth confirmed case in the Philippines. The announcement also established the fifth case as the first case of local COVID-19 spread.
“We appeal to all to coordinate closely with DOH when disseminating information to the public and within their respective institutions. Let us make sure the information sharing process will yield the utmost benefit, and avoid unnecessary stress and stigma to individuals and institutions,” said the Health Secretary as he called for the responsible sharing of information amidst these developments.
All patients are currently admitted at the hospital facility of the DOH-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). According to the report of RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos, the fourth and sixth confirmed positive cases are stable, while the fifth patient is still in critical condition. “He is closely being monitored for his severe pneumonia, diabetes, and hypertension. Also because we recently identified his acute kidney injury. This is due to multiple factors present, but at the very least, good developments include his lessened oxygen requirement and blood pressure elevating drugs,” she concluded.
To clarify, only Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) undergo COVID-19 confirmatory testing. Currently, the conditions necessary for an individual to qualify as a PUI include the consistent presentation of flu-like symptoms, direct interaction with or exposure to confirmed positive individuals, and travel history to affected countries and/or territories with confirmed local transmission for the past 14 days.