MANILA, June 4 (Mabuhay) – President Aquino has created a task force to address emerging infectious diseases.
Executive Order 168 was issued May 26, 2014 to create the Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID), to be composed of representatives from the foreign affairs, interior and local government, justice, labor, tourism and transportation departments.
The Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) will serve as chairperson of the task force.
The task force is empowered to call upon any department, bureau, office, agency or instrumentality of the government, including Government-Owned or –Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), government financial institutions (GFIs), local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations (NGOs) and the private sector for assistance as the circumstances and exigencies may require.
The DOH Secretary may recommend to the President the enlistment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to supplement the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies for the purpose of enforcing the quarantine of specific areas or facilitating the transport of EID patients, and for such other purposes for the effective implementation of this Order.
The Task Force shall have the following functions:
a) Establish a system to identify, screen, and assist Filipinos suspected or confirmed to be infected with EID;
b) Prevent and/or minimize the entry of suspected or confirmed patients with EID into the country. This should include rigid screening and identification of EID suspects, and the institutionalization of a surveillance, alert, and quarantine system in all ports of entry;
c) Prevent and/or minimize the local spread of EID in the country through the establishment or reinforcement of a system in screening possible patients infected with EID, contact tracing, identification of the mode of exposure to the virus, and implementation of effective quarantine and proper isolation procedures;
d) Prevent and/or minimize mortality through effective clinical management by capacitating healthcare facilities, government and private medical practitioners, healthcare workers, and-public safety enforcers;
e) Educate the public on EID and its prevention, control and management to promote positive health behaviors, and address public fear and anxiety through the conduct of a nationwide EID awareness campaign;
f) Adopt measures to strengthen the Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases Program of the DOH or its equivalent in other local health units;
g) Notify the WHO of the EID cases in the country and its assessment of the EID situation;
h) Submit to the Office of the President regular status reports in the monitoring of EID;
i) Formulate, develop, implement, and oversee the EID Preparedness Manual for the prevention and control of EID; and
j) Perform such other functions and activities as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Order, or as the President may direct.
The task force is also mandated to issue an EID Preparedness Manual. A comprehensive and sustainable EID Preparedness Manual shall be formulated and developed in order to address government response and protocol in managing EID cases.
The manual shall include but not be limited to the following:
a) Quarantine and immediate containment of EID within ports of entry;
b) Epidemiological investigation and contact tracing;
c) Treatment of infected cases and containment of affected areas;
d) Formulation of a risk communication plan and EID materials for the general public; and
e) Respective responsibilities of government agencies/instrumentalities.
The executive fiat cites the emergence of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Avian Influenza, Ebola, and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) as infections which have been acknowledged by the global community to cause potential public health emergencies of international concern.
It also likewise cites recurrent threats of other diseases, such as meningococcemia, leptospirosis, antimicrobial resistance of tuberculosis, and other bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases that contribute to the high incidence of infectious diseases in the country.
“In the event that any or a combination of these diseases result in multi-country outbreaks that can lead to epidemics and even a worldwide pandemic, there is a need for an inter-sectoral collaboration to establish preparedness and ensure efficient government response to assess, monitor, contain, control, and prevent the spread of any potential epidemic in the Philippines.” (MNS)