People coming from Ebola-affected countries should be quarantined at the exit point, not at the entry point. So said Academician Jaime C. Montoya, chair of the health sciences division of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), who emphasized that quarantine should be done right there in Ebola-affected countries, before the people board planes and ships to bring them out of the country. Montoya is a medical doctor who specializes in infectious diseases and a member of the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region Clinical Advisory Committee for Emerging Infections.

“Those countries – like Liberia and Sierra Leone – they should be the ones doing the quarantine –– for 21 days before they allow people to leave the country. That is the ideal,” explained Montoya, concurrent executive director of the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.

Dr. Montoya stressed his point during a NAST-organized round table discussion on “Coping with Emerging Infectious Diseases” held recently at the Traders Hotel Manila. NAST is DOST’s advisory body composed of Academicians in the local science community.

Earlier, Dr. Mediadora C. Saniel, president of the University of the Philippines Medical Foundation, Inc. gave a similar statement during her talk on “Prevention and Control of Emerging Infections” during the event. According to Dr. Saniel, a recent study suggests that exit screening of travellers is the most effective way to assess the health of travellers who are at risk.

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone including 145 Filipino peacekeepers in Liberia, to come back to the Philippines in the face of the Ebola infestation in Africa which has also resulted in a few cases in the United States and Spain.

“The problem is, those countries have their own laws and regulations,” Montoya noted. “So we have no option but do the quarantine here.”

According to Dr. Saniel, a facility has been readied for the quarantine of these returning OFWs. However, she emphasized the need to refocus health initiatives from detection and response efforts to prevention measures.

Among the preventive measures against infectious diseases are regular handwashing with soap and water, avoidance of stress which attacks the immune system, and a healthy diet composed of low-fat, low-salt, and low-sugar foods. Such diet helps strengthen the immune system, said Academician Veronica F. Chan of NAST’s biological sciences division and a pioneer in virology and immunology in the Philippines.

Montoya also cautioned, “Do not touch your eyes, mouth, and nose until you’ve washed your hands. The skin lining in those parts are very thin so the virus can easily penetrate.“

The current global Ebola outbreak has resulted in 4,951 reported deaths as of press time and six affected countries namely, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Spain and US. Intense transmission of the virus continues in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The virus enters the host via skin breaks or abrasion, and direct contact with infected patients as well as cadavers. A person may also be infected through exposure to objects contaminated with infected secretions like needles. There is currently a lack of vaccine for the Ebola virus which has an incubation period of 2-21 days.

Montoya likewise noted the volume of OFWs who will come home this Christmas. Thus, he advises Filipinos to stay home, rest, limit contact, and consult a doctor if they have fever and are not feeling well. (S&T Media Service)

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