SARS UPDATE: RP NURSE FROM HK UNDER WATCH

Manila, March 30, 2003 -- A Filipina nurse who returned from Hong Kong is 
reportedly confined in the isolation unit of a government hospital in 
Manila for flu-like symptoms that could indicate severe acute respiratory 
syndrome or SARS.

In a teleconference with President Arroyo at Malacaņang yesterday, Health 
Secretary Manuel Dayrit said the 41-year-old Filipina will be confined at 
the San Lazaro Hospital for the next two to seven days.

There were conflicting details about the background of the patient as 
Dayrit reported to the President that the person taken to the hospital was 
a Filipina maid from Singapore.

A health expert said on Friday that the Philippines could deal with SARS 
though the nation is not adequately equipped.

"We are able to deal with tuberculosis and measles here. We could deal with 
SARS but we are not equipped," said Dr. Manolito Chua, an internist and 
infectious disease specialist at the Research Institute for Tropical 
Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.

RITM is the research arm of the Department of Health (DOH).

Chua said he knew of only two hospitals that have negative pressure rooms 
where SARS patients could be confined and still prevent the spread of 
infection. These are the state-run Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City 
and the privately owned Asian Hospital in Alabang.

Nevertheless, he considers it a blessing that the World Health Organization 
(WHO) Western Pacific Regional Office is in Manila, making it easier for 
the country to have access to essential information, medicines, and gadgets 
for infection control.

Though the WHO has declared the Philippines a SARS-free country, precaution 
is still encouraged.

Filipina DH cremated

The remains of the Filipina domestic helper in Hong Kong who died of severe 
acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) were cremated at 12:40 p.m. yesterday, 
the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said.

OWWA chief Virgilio Angelo told The STAR that the cremation was witnessed 
by Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Victoria Bataclan, the parents of 
the deceased and another relative of the victim.

Adela Dalingay, 39, succumbed to the flu-like illness on Monday, the first 
Filipino victim of the dreaded disease. Her ashes will be turned over to 
the family on Monday and flown back to the country.

As the deadly pneumonia outbreak continues to spread in the territory, 
eight other Filipinos were confirmed stricken with SARS. The Philippine 
consulate in Hong Kong said that they are now confined in hospitals but no 
other details were given.

More than 130,000 Filipino domestic helpers work in the territory.

Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee Hwa, who has been criticized for moving 
too slowly to curb the outbreak in the territory, announced the closure of 
some 2,000 primary and secondary schools starting yesterday until April 6. 
He also invoked a quarantine law and said visitors would now be required to 
fill in health declarations. ((By Rainier Allan Ronda and Nikko Dizon, Star)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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