DFA roundup of A-H1N1 situation worldwide: No reported OFW with A/H1N1

May 8, 2009 4:53 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, May 7 — Except for four Filipino visitors in Hong Kong who are to be released Friday after a seven-day quarantine from the A-H1N1 flu virus strain, “to date, there have been no reported cases of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by A/H1N1,” according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

”In places where the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed cases of A/H1N1, Philippine diplomatic posts have issued advisories to Filipino communities to take precautionary actions,” the DFA said today.

WHO has confirmed cases reported in such places as South Korea, the U.S., Mexico, Israel, Hong Kong, Canada, and Spain.

”Philippine Embassies and Consulates all over the world are taking proactive measures on the H1N1 influenza (A-H1N1) outbreak to shield Filipinos abroad from contracting the virus,” DFA spokesperson Eduardo Malaya said. “Posts have also set up hotlines for Filipinos who have concerns or questions on A-H1N1.”

The Philippine Consulate General in New York has disseminated the advisory by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene entitled, “Swine Influenza: What New Yorkers Need To Know” to the Filipino Community.

“Filipino-Americans are encouraged to constantly monitor the news about the incidence of swine flu within and outside their areas, and stay vigilant for any possible threats to their health,” according to New York Consul General Cecilia B. Rebong.

Over 280,000 Filipinos are living and working in New York. As of May 6, the WHO said there are 403 laboratory confirmed human cases in the United States.

In Canada, Consul General in Toronto Alejandro B. Mosquera said the more than 330,000 Filipinos there are still safe from A-H1N1. “So far, there is no report of any Filipino in this consular jurisdiction among the confirmed cases,” he said. There are 165 human cases of the said flu in Canada.

In Spain, the Philippine consul in Barcelona announced a hotline (628 472 866) which Filipinos could contact in case they have any information or questions on A-H1N1. It has also issued an advisory to the Filipino community. There are 57 confirmed cases of the A/H1N1 strain in Spain.

Philippine Ambassador to London Edgardo B. Espiritu personally appeared on The Filipino Channel’s Balitang Europe last May 3 to emphasize the need for the Filipinos in the United Kingdom to take precautionary measures.

In Berne, Switzerland, the Philippine Embassy has scheduled a meeting with officials of Roche Pharmaceuticals which has a head office in Basel to discuss the effectiveness of Tamiflu and Relenza in combating A/H1N1. The two drugs are said to be the cure for the flu strain, though Ambassador Maria Theresa P. Lazaro indicated “there have been resistance fears raised about Tamiflu in Switzerland.” The meeting is scheduled for May 19.

The two largest mobile phone operators serving Filipinos in Hong Kong – Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.’s (PLDT) SMART 1528 and Vodafone Smartone’s Barkadahan sa Smartone – agreed to the Philippine Consulate’s request for them to issue regular SMS (short messaging system) broadcasts to remind the Filipino community to take precautionary measures.

Meanwhile, even in countries where there are no reported cases of A-H1N1, including all of Southeast Asia, Philippine embassy and consulate officials are not taking any chances and remain on alert mode, the DFA said.

The Philippine Embassy in Dili is closely coordinating with Filipino United Nations volunteer physicians who are detailed at the Guido Valadres National Hospital in Dili.

“Should any suspected case be reported, particularly if a Filipino is involved, the embassy would immediately be informed,” Charge d’Affaires Ariz Severino V. Convalecer said.

Convalecer added that the post’s warden system, which was established following the 2006 crisis, has been reactivated. The warden system consists of community leaders who are long-time residents of Timor-Leste and could assist the Embassy in executing its contingency plan during crisis.

The wardens were also tapped to disseminate advisories and other useful information to the Filipino community. Moreover, the Embassy maintains close contact with the WHO, the UN Population Fund and the International Committee of the Red Cross which have offices in Dili.

The Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai has also issued a swine flu advisory to the Filipinos there as well as in the provinces it covers. “Post will closely monitor updates regarding the outbreak in order to issue warnings if necessary,” Consul General Maria Rowena Mendoza Sanchez said. (PNA)

LAP/GJB

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