Healthbeat 2001 No. 3.jpgHealthbeat 2001 No. 3.jpg

At the wake of the mad-cow scare during the early part of the year, President Macapagal-Arroyo urged the public to patronize local beef to avoid getting afflicted with the human version of the dreaded mad-cow disease. (PD Inquirer, Feb. 28)

Almost at the same time, the DOH informed the public that Filipinos who have visited Europe and ate its beef products were most at risk of being infected with mad-cow disease and were advised to refrain from donating blood to minimize the possibility of spreading the disease in the country. (PD Inquirer, Mar. 2)

Two days after the said announcement, the DOH declared that local hamburgers are free from mad-cow. DOH said that beef products from Jollibee, McDonald’s and Burger King are safe from the said disease as it came from Australia and New Zealand. (PD Inquirer, Mar. 4)

To help promote local beef and to allay fears that it is also infected with mad-cow, the President announced that she and her cabinet would be eating beef in public. (Philippine Star, Mar. 7)

However, when the day arrived, only Cabinet chiefs Dayrit and Leonardo Montemayor of Agriculture made it to the beef-eating event. The two officials ate beef in public to allay fears and show that local beef is safe from mad-cow disease. (Manila Standard, Mar. 9)

On the same day, the Bureau of Food and Drugs ordered all canned beef products from Europe withdrawn from the local market as part of the safety measures the government is implementing to ensure that meat and other meat products sold in the local market are free from the mad-cow disease. (Manila Bulletin, Mar. 9)

Three days later, the DOH urged the public to report to authorities groceries and merchandise stores selling canned meat like vienna sausage, corned beef and luncheon meat from Europe. The DOH announced that only those manufactured in Australia, the U.S., and neighboring Asian countries were given the green light to be sold in the local markets. (Manila Bulletin, Mar. 12)

The next day, the DOH called on the public not to be hysterical over unverified reports of the mad-cow virus that caused the hospitalization of some people in the country even as it also dispelled rumors of mad-cow disease stricken patients in Bulacan. (Manila Standard, Mar. 13)

On March 15, news reports on a meat shipment in three container vans from Poland and Ireland were sent back by the National Meat Inspection Commission on suspicion that these were contaminated with the mad-cow disease were read. (People’s Journal, Mar. 15)

After reviewing records of patients who died of dementia or severe brain damage as far back as 1995, the DOH officially declared that no Filipino has died of the mad-cow disease. (Manila Standard, Mar. 19)

Meanwhile, sometime in early April, news on two Filipinos who allegedly died of human “mad cow” disease was read on papers. The said report prompted doctors to seek the intervention of DOH in monitoring the said infection. After the investigation, doctors said that the deaths were caused by Creutzfeld Jakob Disease (CJD), a disease characterized by rapid and progressive dementia, involuntary and irregular jerky movements, paralysis, muscular weakness, speech impairment and worsening eyesight. CJD affects the brain and the spinal column and is contracting by eating infected beef, fresh or canned. (Today, Apr. 12)

The DOH confirmed that there were CJD cases in the country, but was quick to dismiss that it was not linked to mad-cow. The DOH said that there was no cause for alarm as it was not the illness associated with the human version of the mad-cow disease. The DOH said that there was no truth to the report that the two deaths at University of Santo Tomas Hospital and Philippine General Hospital (PGH) were due to human “mad cow” disease. It also said that those were classical CJD cases that occur at the twilight years of the patients. The DOH said that a possible profile of an nvCJD (mad cow disease in humans) is a young Filipino who travels and eats meat a lot, who has stayed in Britain for at least 6 months in the 80s and must have eaten beef most of the time. (Today, Apr. 17)