Healthbeat 2001 No. 2.jpgHealthbeat 2001 No. 2.jpg

It all started from a mild influenza virus that downed hundreds of students in some parts of Metro Manila for no particular reason at all other than it was the influenza season. Because the said students fell ill simultaneously and partly because of the daily reports on terrorist instigated bio-war abroad, the public had gone into hysteria and speculated that the germ warfare had hit the country. (Manila Meteor, Oct. 3)

To dispel rumors, the DOH said that it was not the Osama flu and assured the public that the flu outbreak was spawned by the rainy season and not by germ warfare. The simultaneous illness of the schoolchildren allegedly forced the suspension of classes at number of private schools in San Juan and Pasig. The schools included Saint Paul’s College, Poveda Learning Center, Immaculate Concepcion Academy, La Salle Greenhills, Xavier School, Pasig Catholic College, and Saint Jude Catholic School. (Bandera, Oct. 4; Daily Tribune, Oct. 3)

Sec. Dayrit allayed fears of an epidemic in Metro Manila after he visited two of the mentioned private schools. He discovered that only a small percentage of the students who went to the clinics of the Poveda and Pasig Catholic College for consultation had fever as a result of being infected by a mild strain of influenza and none of the students were brought to hospitals. (PD Inquirer, Oct. 4)

Just the same though, the DOH advised the public to remain calm and seek medical consultation for any unusual symptom experienced in the midst of the flu scare that affected by now at least 12 private schools in the metro. The DOH said it has been coordinating with school authorities and local health officials to monitor the situation to address the growing problem of the flu virus. (Daily Tribune, Oct. 5)

About this time, the DOH also said that it would look into the possibility that the virus that struck thousands of students may not be the common Type A N1H1 strain. (Today, Oct. 5)

International health agencies also offered to study the local virus to determine if there is indeed a new flu strain. The DOH said that cultured throat swab samples collected from sick students would be sent to the World Health Organization (WHO) reference laboratory in Australia. (Philippine Star, Oct. 7)

Meanwhile, the Metro manila Development Authority (MMDA) disputed Senator Loren Legarda’s claim that the flu outbreak was due to uncollected garbage. MMDA said that if it is true then squatter families who are more openly exposed to garbage should have been the first to get ill and not the said students who were confined in enclosed and air-conditioned classrooms. (Manila Meteor, Oct. 10)

Finally, after the laboratory tests came out, the DOH assured the people that the flu virus that belonged to a common strain that can be easily treated. The DOH said that based on the throat swabs taken from some 36 students, the flu was identified as Type A N1H1, a virus that is definitely not a biological agent that terrorists might use. (Today, Oct. 21)