• 28 Aug 2020 12:50 PM | Anonymous

    Dr. Irene Umayam, International SOS Philippines


    The coronavirus is a family of viruses that causes respiratory symptoms in humans – including the common cold (rhinovirus) and the more lethal kind, such as; MERS, SARS, and COVID-19.

    What started as an outbreak of pneumonia and respiratory illness in Wuhan province has become a global pandemic which has affected 23 million people with 806,000 deaths and counting.

    In the Philippine, as of now 187,427 people are confirmed to have contracted the virus, with 2,966 deaths. The average number of new cases ranges from 1,000 to 4,000 per day, in part due to the accreditation of more testing facilities and better public access.

    The Medical Situation in the Philippines

    The dramatic increase in the number of cases in the Philippines during the past 3 months particularly in Metro Manila and nearby provinces has brought about an increase in the occupancy of hospital beds.

    Hospitals, especially the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Units are currently overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases to the point that some patients are being diverted to provincial hospitals.

    Most, if not all hospitals, in Metro Manila have declared full capacity for COVID-19 patients, partly the result of healthcare workers contracting the virus and later on requiring hospital care.

    Masks and Face Shields

    As the virus is transmitted through droplets sneezed or secreted by an infected person the easiest route of transmission is through the nostrils and mouth. The wearing of face masks, especially in public places, is therefore highly recommended and in fact is mandated by the Philippine government.

    To prevent further spread of the virus make sure to wear a fresh medical/surgical mask every day and avoid touching the mask while wearing it. You can also use a fabric non-surgical mask however the World Health Organization recommends to wash it every day after use.

    Face shields have also been mandated by the Philippine government to be used in public transportation, workplaces and public establishments, such as malls.

    A face shield however, should not be used as a substitute for a mask, which is the main additional protection against infectious diseases.

    What we can do to prevent spread

    The medical and scientific community remain hopeful that a vaccine will soon be developed to protect the general population and in turn, protect those whose immune systems that have been compromised (the elderly, diabetics, people with lung or heart conditions).

    To prevent the spread of the virus we should practice physical distancing (more than 2 meters apart especially in public places), frequent handwashing and wearing masks and other protective equipment when outside your home.

    The Department of Health also recommends limiting trips for essential needs and immediate isolation and consultation once a person develops symptoms. If you develop symptoms (i.e. cough, colds, fever, loss of taste or smell, joint pains, body weakness or diarrhoea), please consult your doctor for assessment and timely testing.

    About the International SOS Group of Companies

    The International SOS Group of Companies is in the business of saving lives and protecting the global workforce from health and security threats. Wherever you are, we deliver customised health, security risk management and wellbeing solutions to fuel growth and productivity. In the event of extreme weather, an epidemic or a security incident, we provide an immediate response providing peace of mind. Our innovative technology and medical and security expertise focus on prevention, offering real-time, actionable insights and on-the-ground quality delivery. We help you meet compliance reporting needs for good governance. By partnering with us, organisations can fulfil their Duty of Care responsibilities, while empowering business resilience, continuity and sustainability.

    Founded in 1985, the International SOS Group is trusted by 12,000 organisations, including the majority of the Fortune Global 500, multi-national corporate clients and mid-size enterprises, governments, educational institutions and NGOs. 11,000 multi-cultural medical, security and logistics experts stand with you to provide support & assistance from over 1,000 locations in 90 countries, 24/7, 365 days.  

    To protect your workforce, we are at your fingertips: internationalsos.com

  • 29 Feb 2020 12:40 PM | Anonymous

    Dr. Irene Umayam, International SOS Philippines 


    On January 30, 2020, the first imported case of COVID-19 (formerly referred to as Novel Coronavirus) was confirmed from a 38-year-old Chinese national who had arrived in the Philippines on January 21 from Wuhan, China via Hong Kong.

    The Department of Health (DOH) in the Philippines has since reported three confirmed COVID-19 cases with over a hundred admitted patients under investigation (PUI) as of February 26.

    As this health situation continues to rapidly evolve it is important for the public to know the right information on the virus and be equipped with ways to protect themselves and their families both at home and in the workplace.

    The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

    The 2019-nCoV was identified in January 2020 as the cause of an outbreak of pneumonia originating in Wuhan, China, which initially started in December 2019. Around 25% of cases in China are severe and a growing number of fatalities have been recorded.

    The virus was renamed Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and the disease that it causes was called Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

    About Coronaviruses

    Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which can infect people. Some cause mostly mild illness, such as the strains responsible for certain types of common cold. Others can potentially lead to severe, or even fatal disease - such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which continues to circulate in some parts of the world.

    The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 was also caused by a coronavirus. It caused severe and fatal disease but is no longer in circulation.

    The natural reservoir for coronaviruses is thought to be animal hosts. New strains that emerge from this reservoir infect an ‘intermediate’ host, and from there lead on to infect people. The viruses may then be capable of being transmitted from one person to another. Some viruses are efficient at human-to-human transmission, whilst others are not.

    Symptoms of COVID-19

    While the illness is still being studied it is known that the common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty of breathing. It is important to note however that these symptoms are not limited to COVID-19. Respiratory illnesses and pneumonia caused by other organisms (including bacteria) and other viruses (such as influenza) can also cause these symptoms.

    COVID-19 can cause severe illness and a growing number of infected people have died. It is possible that people with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk for severe disease.

    How does COVID-19 spread?

    The transmission of the disease is from person to person, i.e. from a sick person to others who are in close contact. Although the exact way this happens is still being investigated it is probably occurring in the same way as other respiratory infections, including colds and flu, are transmitted, through infected respiratory droplets. The sick person expels these when they cough, sneeze, or talk. Others can get the disease via contact (direct or indirect) with these contaminated droplets.

    Initially the virus may have 'jumped’ from the environment to humans. Preliminary information suggests that this coronavirus was “zoonotic” - transmitted from an animal source to humans. The initial group of cases appeared to have a common source of exposure - a live animal and seafood market in Wuhan, China.

    What are some practical tips to protect ourselves?

    • Avoid potential exposure. Practice good hygiene measures and safe food practices.
    • Avoid direct contact with animals (live or dead) and their environment. Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with animal droppings.
    • Keep some distance from people who are obviously sick.
    • Maintain good personal hygiene. Wash your hands frequently. Carry a hand sanitiser for use when soap and water are not readily available. Avoid touching your face.
    • Ensure food, including eggs, is thoroughly cooked.
    • Do not travel if you are sick. Note that some locations have implemented screening and travellers may face quarantine and testing.

    When do we use face masks?

    There two types of face masks available in the market: surgical masks and respirators (i.e. N95 masks). The N95 mask is recommended for health professionals who work with patients for long periods of time. The surgical mask is the most commonly used mask that helps to prevent the spread of infection.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided a simple guideline when to use a face mask and the proper way to put on, use, take-off and dispose of a mask:

    When to use a mask

    • -       For healthy people wear a mask only if you are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 infection.
    • -       Wear a mask, if you are coughing or sneezing.
    • -       Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

    How to put on, take off and dispose of a mask

    • -       Before putting on a mask, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
    • -       Cover your mouth and nose with the mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
    • -       Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
    • -       Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single use masks.
    • -       To remove the mask: remove from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

    What is the treatment for COVID-19?

    The treatment of the new coronavirus is supportive with medication to reduce fever and to support and improve respiratory function. There is no specific antiviral therapy against this disease however trials are underway.

    Is there a vaccine against COVID-19?

    There is no available vaccine against COVID-19, however research and development has commenced.

    Can we still travel outside the Philippines?

    As of January 30, 2020, several flight operators announced temporary suspension or the reduction of flights on routes serving China amid travel restrictions imposed in the country to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. We advise travellers to defer all travel to Hubei province in China due to official travel restrictions in place in some cities, plus the potential for further sudden restrictions on departure and the risk of quarantine at their next destination. Members should also defer travel to other areas of China as advised by their local national authorities. Even in the absence of such advisories, members should consider deferring non-essential travel to the rest of mainland China based on their own considerations and risk assessment.

    Is it safe to travel within the Philippines?

    While there has been no directive from the DOH that prohibits travel within the Philippines, caution must still be taken especially with non-essential travel. Screening measures in public establishments such as airports, hotels and resorts are in place with respective protocols on those who have recently traveled to countries with travel bans due to COVID-19.

    On February 18 the DOH together with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Department of Tourism (DOT) issued a joint statement on public gatherings assuring everyone that it is “safe to organise and attend public gatherings, meetings, and festivals as long as all precautionary measures identified by the DOH are observed”.

    The DOH further reminded the general public on proper hand hygiene and to seek medical attention when symptoms of cough, colds, sore throat and fever are present.

    How can I access the latest information on COVID-19 from International SOS?

    As this is a rapidly evolving health situation it is advisable to constantly check on the latest information. Our Medical Information and Analysis Team are compiling first-hand information from our on-the-ground teams in China and globally. We have created a website which provides these updates as well as the services we are providing to clients and members on a 24/7 basis – some sections of the website are open to the public and easily accessible via internationalsos.com/coronavirus

  • 30 Jan 2020 12:35 PM | Anonymous

    Dr. Irene Umayam, International SOS Philippines


    What is Measles and how does it spread?

    Rubeola, more commonly known as Measles, is a viral infection primarily affecting a person’s respiratory system. It spreads through the air via droplets from an infected person. Measles is highly infectious but can be easily prevented through vaccination.

    Is there a Measles outbreak in the Philippines?

    In Manila, cases multiplied ten-fold from 351 cases in 2017 to 3,646 cases in 2018. By February 2019 a surge in measles cases prompted health authorities to declare an outbreak in Metro Manila. More than 35,000 cases were reported with a fatality rate of 1.37% nationwide. This outbreak may be partly caused by the rapid decrease in compliance to vaccinations since 2017 in the Philippines due to the Dengvaxia controversy.

    How does measles affect a person?

    The infection may start like any flu-like syndrome – fever, cough and red eyes. The start of the infection is then followed by itchy rashes which spread from the head to the chest, arms and legs.

    A person is considered contagious 4 to 14 days after the appearance of the rash. Complications may include ear or lung infections. This can be very serious to those who are unvaccinated, particularly young children.


    What is the treatment for Measles?

    The treatment for measles is supportive – paracetamol is given for fever and antihistamines for the itchy rashes and redness. No antivirals are indicated for measles as healthy individuals can produce antibodies to fight the disease.

    How can the spread of measles be prevented?

    Measles is considered to be very contagious as it is transmitted through droplets from sneezing and coughing with the ability of the virus to remain airborne for the next two hours. To minimize the spread of measles and to recover from the illness, infected patients are advised to stay indoors, stay hydrated, take their medications and practice frequent hand washing.

    Measles can be prevented through vaccination. The first dose of the measles vaccine is given at age 9 months. Infants and children should receive two doses of the vaccine in combination (measles, mumps, rubella or MMR vaccine) in their first year and the second dose one month later. Adults should also be updated with their MMR vaccine with a single dose of the injected vaccine.

  • 30 Dec 2019 12:11 PM | Anonymous

    Dr. Irene Umayam, International SOS Philippines


    What is Polio and how does it spread?

    Poliomyelitis, or simply polio, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus which affects the central nervous system.

    The poliovirus is usually spread via the faecal-oral route i.e. when food is contaminated through unhygienic preparation, or contaminated water is consumed.

    Humans with a healthy immune system can be carriers and not display any symptoms.

    Is there a Polio outbreak in the Philippines?

    The Philippines declared an outbreak of polio last September 19 as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). The first case was confirmed to have originated in Lanao del Sur, Mindanao after 19 years. Historically, polio has been eradicated in the Philippines since 2000 largely due to the massive government and WHO campaign called the GPEI (Global Polio Eradication Initiative).

    How does Polio affect a person?

    Polio may start as a flu-like syndrome with fever, headache, gastrointestinal disturbance and body weakness. A small percentage of those affected may have irreversible symptoms of neck and back stiffness with or without paralysis affecting the legs.


    What is the treatment for Polio?

    There is no cure for Polio once a person has been infected. The treatment is mainly supportive and is aimed at limiting or reducing the patient’s symptoms.

    How can the spread of Polio be prevented?

    Polio can be prevented through vaccination and good hand hygiene.

    Most adults are protected via the completion of the childhood immunization programme. Aside from proper vaccination, other ways to protect yourself and your loved ones include: proper handwashing with soap and water, ensuring that drinking water is safe and eating food that has been fully cooked.


    How can travellers from the Philippines prevent the spread of Polio?

    As part of the campaign to stop the spread and eventually eradicate polio globally, travellers are highly advised to have a polio vaccination booster especially when travelling outside the Philippines. These vaccines are recommended to be given 4 weeks prior to travel or if you are in the Philippines for more than 4 weeks.

    The WHO further recommends proper documentation of polio vaccination on an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICPV) yellow card. This will give travelers scheduled to travel outside the Philippines proof of their immunization.

    Two forms of the vaccine are available: the oral polio vaccine (OPV) and the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).  OPV is given by mouth as the virus may thrive in the mouth and digestive tract thus providing immunity in these organs and decreases the risk of human-to-human transmission. IPV is injected on the arm and provides immunity in the blood and individual immunity.

    Adults who have completed polio vaccination during childhood only need one booster dose of the IPV as per the Philippines Department of Health. Adults who have had no previous vaccinations or have unrecalled status should receive 3 doses of the IPV.

  • 30 Oct 2019 9:27 AM | Anonymous

    Dr. Irene Umayam, International SOS Philippines


    As an Emergency Physician people often ask me if they should get tested for Dengue when they run a high fever. Parents in particular, are naturally concerned about the Dengue outbreak and increasing number of cases in Metro Manila. For a potentially serious disease, Dengue Fever  has a very simple solution: early detection and hydration.


    What is Dengue and how does it spread?

    Dengue is a viral infection carried by the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes which thrive in the tropics and subtropics.  

    It cannot be passed from one person to another by close contact but is transmitted by a mosquito first biting an infected person then biting a non-infected person. The Aedes mosquito thrives in urban areas and is a daytime feeder biting during the daytime and dusk.

    Is there a Dengue outbreak in the Philippines?

    The Philippines Department of Health announced a national Dengue epidemic in August 2019 due to a 98% increase in the number of new cases since January 2019. The highest number of cases were reported in Western Visayas and Calabarzon. 271,480 cases were reported with a 0.4% fatality rate.

    How does Dengue make a person feel?


    Dengue Fever feels like a bad flu-like illness with fever, joint and muscle aches and general tiredness. Most patients with Dengue Fever get better on their own with rest and symptom management. More serious cases of Dengue can affect the blood clotting system producing a rash, bruising or bleeding gums and more systemic symptoms like vomiting and abdominal pain.

    How do I know if I have Dengue and what can I do?

    A person can contract Dengue 4 to 10 days after being bitten by a carrier mosquito. A fever above 38.5 °C or 101.3 °F can be associated with headache, joint pains, body weakness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or rashes. The fever may last 2 to 6 days.

    A doctor can do a Dengue NS1 blood test to detect the virus antigen. A full blood count is also done to monitor the white blood cell and platelet count.

    Paracetamol can be taken every 4-6 hours to help keep yourself more comfortable. Avoid ibuprofen containing medication as this can cause stomach irritation.

    What is the treatment for Dengue Fever?

    Most patients with Dengue Fever can be looked after at home where they can rest comfortably. They may be asked to attend a clinic for regular blood tests so that the doctor can monitor their progress closely. Only serious cases of Dengue Fever need hospital admission. The treatment is mainly supportive to control the symptoms e.g. pain management or fluid hydration. Serious cases may warrant blood transfusion if the blood test results become very abnormal.


    How can the spread of Dengue be prevented?

    The Philippine Department of Health launched the 4-S program in February 2019. The 4-S programme is designed to encourage the public to;

    1. Search and destroy mosquito breeding sites
    2. Self-protect -  apply repellents and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants
    3. Seek early consultation
    4. Support fogging and/or spraying


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