Philippines tightens SARS screening at all entry points

The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) is assuring the public that there is no immediate threat of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in the country despite the new cases found in neighboring China.

"There is no reason to panic. We are aware of the problem and we are monitoring it. We have raised our alert system in different ports of entries on a higher level to make sure that we keep track of potential suspect cases coming in the country," Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said.

The health chief disclosed that all incoming flights from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are being screened upon arrival, although these flights have already undergone exit screenings from their respective points of origin.

The health chief disclosed that the country has nine thermal scanners in major airports nationwide, three of these are found in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 1, while four are in NAIA 2. The remaining two are each in Cebu and Laoag international airports. Flights coming from Chinese territories generally land in the said four airports.

"We have enough scanners to use, so I believe it is impossible that we will miss a single potential suspect," Dayrit assured.

The health chief also assured the public that all SARS isolation facilities in the country are in the state of readiness for any eventual case. These facilities are found in the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine, San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines and selected medical centers and hospitals in the provinces.

"We are in constant communication with the World Health Organization (WHO), which is sending experts to investigate the new wave of SARS cases in China, so we will be informed accordingly of any development that will stem from this latest occurrence of SARS," Dayrit said.

WHO official Dr. Jean Marc Olive said that all contacts of the reported cases in China' have been identified. "Some of them may have fever and would be monitored closely," Olive' said, as he stressed that there is no public health emergency in the Philippines, thus there is no reason to panic.

"We are, therefore, advising the public to remain calm as everything is under control. It is also still safe to go to China as there is no reported community spread yet, their new cases are mainly due to laboratory contamination," Dayrit stressed.

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