GOVT SAYS MYSTERY FLU NOT SERIOUS I N RP

Manila, March 19, 2003 -- President Arroyo is relieved the killer pneumonia that struck most of Southeast Asia has not reached the Philippines.

Speaking over Radyo Bombo yesterday morning, Mrs. Arroyo said she was happy with the report of Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit that a Filipino, who had arrived from Vietnam, was free of the disease.

"It is a big relief to learn that the outbreak of this new respiratory disease in Southeast Asia is not as serious in the Philippines," she said.

"Nonetheless, the Department of Health immediately issued an alert to all suspicious cases. The DOH will not relax its guard. There are action plans that include the information campaign about the disease itself, about its symptoms and the things to do to avoid contracting it."

Mrs. Arroyo said the best defense against the highly communicable Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is accurate public information.

"The public must not be misled or fear rumors," she said. "Information is our best weapon."

But Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said the government will stop sending medical workers to China, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, which have been declared as high risk areas for SARS by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Dayrit said yesterday the WHO has removed the Philippines from the list of countries which has verified cases of SARS.

Dayrit said the delisting was made after the Filipino from Vietnam was discharged from hospital with a clean bill of health.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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