26 June 2009
Secrecy cannot defeat an unseen H1N1 viral enemy. Let's push for an H1N1 summit wherein the entire nation will know all the facts about H1N1, the dangers, the risks and what steps we can take collectively to win the fight against H1N1. Ignorance will never protect us and this is one instance wherein what we don't know can hurt us.
Yesterday, I was at the Senate to attend the Senate hearing on H1N1 updates attended by officials from the DOH, the DepEd, CHED, NDCC, DILG, staff members of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography. Mr. Jet Pacapac of the Office of Senator Loren Legarda informed me about the hearing which was presided over by Atty. Antonio Paredes, Jr., Senator Legarda's Chief Legislative Officer.
I was able to record portions of the proceedings and I will post them here or at youtube when I come back tonight.
Those of you who have followed this blog know my position on the secretive attitude by the DOH regarding the flights which brought in the first infected H1N1 passengers into the Philippines.
This secretive attitude by the Philippine DOH is the opposite of the stance adopted by our neighbors in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia and Singapore wherein they immediately informed publicly all the passengers of the flights that carried the first instances of H1N1 infection. All of those passengers were told to call their health ministry hotline where presumably they were instructed precisely how to conduct themselves and protect themselves in case they exhibit symptoms and how they can help other people simply by keeping away from them as much as possible; this two-way communication is superior and faster to the one-way communication adopted by the DOH and enables all concerned to better protect themselves and to perform the necessary social distancing so they can prevent unnecessary spread of the infection.
DOH officials explained to the Committee that they did not disclose these details because the law does not allow it. I still have to find exactly what that law is but even assuming that were true, our government should seriously consider amending said law quickly because it is obvious that it is not helping us in our fight against H1N1.
In the said hearing, I also informed the Committee about a certain school I know of wherein students and their parents were offered the regular flu vaccine for P800 per shot which is higher than the P400 to P700 per shot that we often hear on TV. The memo to the students and their parents did not even bother to clarify that the regular flu vaccine is ineffective against H1N1. Worse, the memo did not even bear the signature or endorsement of the school principal who is legally and morally responsible for all the students.
I gave a copy of the memo to the DepEd representative who attended the hearing. I expect our government to do something about this matter and on the general issue of lowering the prices of drugs and other products vital in the fight against H1N1.
I also called for an H1N1 summit wherein government agencies and various sectors of society such as doctors, health workers, the media, drug companies and ordinary citizens can get together to sit down and discuss openly all the problems and possible solutions related to H1N1 such as how to bring down the price of vital anti-viral drugs like Tamiflu. The DepEd representative appeared very supportive of this idea and they appeared to be thinking along the same lines.
I also brought to the attention of the Committee the need to discuss more openly the concept of cytokine storms and how the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic killed millions of healthy young men and women because of this scientific phenomenon wherein the immune system of people infected by the virus overact causing a condition known as ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) which permanently damages the lungs leading to what is more popularly known as multiple organ failure.
This is a historical fact and the earlier we discuss it and make people more aware of it, the better it will be for all of us. The objective is not to cause panic among people but to instruct them about it, raise consciousness and hopefully, get their support in a comprehensive strategy against H1N1.
In fairness to the DOH and other members of the panel, they received the suggestions openly and said that they would consider them. I wish to thank everybody concerned especially the Office of Senator Loren Legarda and the offices of the other Senators who are members of the Senate Health Committee, the DOH, DepEd, CHED, NDCC, DILG, WHO representatives and Dr. Mavic Vasquez of quarantine who answered my question on the flight details issue.
Just to show what I mean regarding the contrast between the secretive attitude of the DOH and the transparent policy of the Malaysian Health Ministry, I reproduce below part of my blog post on May 22, 2009:
* start of May 22, 2009 blog post *
First Confirmed H1N1 Case in the Philippines — Bakit sa Malaysia Sinabi Yung Airlines & Flight No. Nung First H1N1 Case, Bakit sa Pilipinas, Hindi?
22 May 2009
At the end of this post is the latest update as of May 22 in the new DOH website. It is dated May 21 but I'm sure it was posted only today.
What is evident in this latest update by the DOH is that IT DOES NOT TELL US THE AIRLINES AND FLIGHT NO. which brought this 10-year old girl back home to the Philippines.
Let's compare this first H1N1 case handling by the Philippine DOH with the first H1N1 case handling by Malaysia, our next-door neighbor.
This is a screenshot of a ChannelNewsAsia video report on May 15, 2009:
This are two screenshots of a Star video report on May 15, 2009 clearly identifying Malaysia Airline flight MH091 from Newark, New Jersey, USA as the flight taken by the first Malaysia H1N1 case patient:
and asking the passengers of said flight to contact the Health Ministry at its hotlines:
This is the video clip of the Star report from youtube:
Why is it that the Malaysians could disclose the airlines and flight no. which took the first H1N1 case patient to Malaysia from the United States while here in the Philippines, the health authorities have, so far, told us nothing?!
Paano tayo magiging VIGILANT kung WALA TAYONG ALAM?!!!
To sum up, heto po yung detalye nung first Malaysian H1N1 case:
MALAYSIA FIRST H1N1 CASE
Patient Name : Undisclosed
Age : 21
Country of Origin : United States
City of Origin : Newark, New Jersey, USA
Destination : Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Airlines : Malaysian Airlines
Flight No. : MH091
Arrival Date : May 13, 2009
Arrival Time : 7:15am
This is the first Philippines H1N1 case:
PHILIPPINES FIRST H1N1 CASE
Patient Name : Undisclosed (Understandable because she's a child)
Age : 10
Country of Origin : United States
City of Origin : Not disclosed to the public (why?)
Destination : NAIA or maybe, Centennial (probably)
Airlines : Not disclosed to the public (why?)
Flight No. : Not disclosed to the public (why?)
Arrival Date : May 18, 2009
Arrival Time : Not disclosed to the public (why?)
What is the difference between Malaysia and the Philippines?
The Malaysians have a better right to know? Bakit?!
* end of May 22, 2009 blog post *
I believe you can judge for yourself which is the better approach.