Clark Field, Pampanga, May 1, 2003 -- Clark Development Corp. (CDC) President Emmanuel Angeles Wednesday stressed that the threat of the dreaded pneumonia-like virus will not stop international flights from coming into the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.

As this developed, several locators expressed their concerns and sought advise from a Department of Health official in a forum here Wednesday.

Angeles, in a forum on the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) held at the Clark Museum, said the CDC will be designating a quarantine area within the airport complex to handle suspected SARS cases coming in through the airport.

Wednesday's forum was sponsored by the CDC and the Clark Investors' and Locators' Association (CILA) to seek the cooperation of locators and the government in mapping out plans to address the problems caused by the disease and prevent it from spreading.

Several locators at the airport complex have aired their concerns regarding the SARS problem because they are involved in flying in cargo from SARS-affected countries.

An employee of United Parcel Service (UPS) said they have been given multivitamins and gloves by the management, but expressed concern that cargo handlers and sorters might be at risk from cargo coming in from infected countries. UPS flies in cargo from China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and other Asia-Pacific countries.

Resource speaker Dr. Eric Tayag, DOH assistant regional director, said that cargo handlers should wear gloves instead of masks because they could contract the virus by handling cargo.

Hans Axthelm, CILA vice president and owner of the Hansa Toys, said the company has experienced an increased absenteeism owing to concerns by workers that they might be infected with SARS.

Tayag explained that infection only occurs when an individual has shown symptoms, such as more than 38-degrees Celsius fever, coughing and difficulty in breathing.

"The sicker a patient gets, the more infectious he becomes. Coughing and difficulty in breathing can infect the most. But until these symptoms surface, there is no infection," Tayag, who was trained at the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), said.

He explained that the incubation period for SARS is from two to 14 days which is also the quarantine period required. If a suspected infection does not show symptoms after the period lapses, the individual is declared free of SARS, he said. But the family members infected by Adela Catalon before she died are still in quarantine. They still have a few days before being declared safe, he stressed.

Tayag showed a graph of the 77,854 passengers who arrived in the country from March 27 to April 20, there were 1,208 suspected cases with only 11 hospitalized.

He said the government is also planning to adopt a measure employed by the US to further enhance its efforts to contain the virus. "The US-CDC declared that people are suspected as SARS cases if they had a stop over in any SARS-infected country," he said. (J. Due, Today)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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