December 3, 2023

Binkoko Inside a hospital’s emergency room recently, kids and teenagers were desperately weak, weary and sick; one was experiencing uncontrollable shivering, pale as a ghost; another was wailing out his discomfort. ER doctors and nurses weren’t frantic but you could tell they weren’t at ease about the situation either.

Patients are swarming the ER like flies after all. It is the flu season but it isn’t just the usual seasonal flu, a doctor explained to me.

Apparently, says the good doctor, three years of staying at home during the pandemic has left some flu viruses just lurking out there with no host. It also, ironically, weakened our immune system against all sorts of viruses. Thus, when restrictions eased and everyone could go out already, the flu virus had its revenge of sorts.

This virus has resulted in an influenza-like illness and more than 150,000 cases have been recorded nationwide, the Department of Health (DOH) reported recently.

Symptoms include fever, shivering, chills, dry cough, loss of appetite, body aches and nausea, sneezing typically in connection with a sudden onset of illness.

This is what the DOH said based on a Nov. 4 report in The STAR:

Based on the latest Disease Surveillance Report of the DOH, there were 158,307 cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) reported from Jan. 1 to Oct. 14, 2023. The number is 46 percent higher than the 108,065 ILI cases reported during the same period last year.

The top three regions with recorded cases of ILI are Davao Region with 23,665; Northern Mindanao with 20,842 and Central Visayas with 20,160.

The regions that recorded the highest increase in cases when compared to last year are Zamboanga Peninsula (311 percent; 1,853 to 7,622), Central Visayas (95 percent; 10,323 to 20,160) and National Capital Region (83 percent; 4,914 to 8,991).

Data from the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau showed a decrease in deaths caused by ILI from 415 in 2022 to 222 this year.

The regions with the most number of deaths are Davao Region (69), Central Visayas (43) and Caraga with 33 deaths.

The DOH earlier warned the public of illnesses common during the holiday season such as influenza.

Even the United States and perhaps other countries are seeing a surge in influenza-like cases.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D. Influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease in people (known as flu season) almost every winter in the United States.

Of these types, the Influenza A viruses are the only influenza viruses known to cause flu pandemics, not local but global epidemics of flu disease.

“A pandemic can occur when a new and different influenza A virus emerges that infects people, has the ability to spread efficiently among people and against which people have little or no immunity. Influenza C virus infections generally cause mild illness and are not thought to cause human epidemics. Influenza D viruses primarily affect cattle with spillover to other animals but are not known to infect people to cause illness,” it said.

Mask up

What should we do then? Does this mean we need to mask up again, just when we thought the era of wearing masks is over? It’s the safe thing to do, at least for JILI slot now.

The DOH also needs to raise awareness that this isn’t just the usual flu season, caused by changing weather. It’s worse because we are coming from the pandemic wherein the public prioritized getting vaccines against COVID-19 and not as much for the flu.

We are also coming from a time when, as the ER doctor explained, this influenza virus is having a revenge comeback of sorts after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Preventive health care

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a competent DOH.

The Health department must be proactive in pushing for preventive health care among Filipinos so that our bodies are more equipped in dealing with new viruses and epidemics.

Preventive health care, which would help the population live healthier lives, includes screenings, regular check-ups and other measures which the government must provide to all Filipinos.

But first, it is imperative that the government fixes corruption in the health sector, including that in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. which has been perennially hounded by allegations of corruption, not least during the pandemic.

As I said before, there’s a special place in hell for people who steal funds that could otherwise be used to prevent sickness and death.

I fervently hope the Marcos administration can really improve Filipino lives by improving access to preventive health care.

Pumapalo Para sa Bayan

Speaking of preventive health care, exercise is one factor that also improves one’s health. For some, hitting the golf course and fairways is one such exercise.

Thus, the University of the Philippines Alumni Association (UPAA) president and regent Robert Lester Aranton launched the inaugural UPAA President’s Golf Cup.

The tournament, with its theme “Pumapalo Para sa Bayan,” will tee off on Dec.14, 2023 at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila.

The UPAA President’s Golf Cup is among the fundraising events of the current UPAA Board of Directors to support its priority projects under its flagship program 4Es CONNECT. 4Es stands for Experiential Education toward Employment and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem.

Among the specific projects under the 4Es CONNECT which this tournament shall fund include relaunching the UPAA website, reviving the Botika ng Alumni, creating internship and job search platform and robustifying existing scholarship programs.

(Those interested may contact Jenny Obsania/Elna Divino at 0917-8372098/ 8-82826656 / 02 79106390).

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

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