PERTUSSIS SCARE: State of calamity raised in Iloilo City; P16.9-M budget vs ‘whooping cough’

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Iloilo City has been placed under a state of calamity of pertussis, or whooping cough, after it logged seven confirmed from the “highly contagious” bacterial respiratory infection.

The City Council unanimously approved a resolution during a special session on Tuesday, March 26, following the declaration of a citywide outbreak on Monday, March 25.

“The city must intensify its prevention, early detection, isolation, treatment, reintegration, and timely, appropriate, and high-quality outbreak response for pertussis to prevent and control its transmission,” the resolution reads.

As of March 26, there have been seven confirmed cases of pertussis out of 16 reported cases in the city. Confirmed cases were recorded in the districts of Jaro, Molo, and Arevalo.

Dr. Roland Jay Fortuna, Asst. Department Head of the City Health Office (CHO), reported that two out of the nine suspected cases yielded negative results. The most recent reported case is from the Lapuz district, but verification is still pending.

With the declaration of a state of calamity, the City Council also approved a P16.9 million fund in the management of the outbreak.

This fund will be used for the procurement of medicines and other necessities. The breakdown of the budget is as follows:

  • IEC materials – P108,000
  • Medicines and biologicals – P14,000,000
  • Swab kits/Testing kits – P2,000,000
  • Ancillary (Mask, Disinfectants) – P500,000
  • Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) Training – P300,000

The RITM Training in particular is intended to train personnel at the city’s molecular lab to conduct pertussis testing. This is to expedite the diagnosis of the disease since samples are presently sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City.

Fortuna explained that the approved budget of P16.9 million is based on the population of children aged 6 weeks to 5 years old from the three districts with confirmed cases, totaling around 26,000 individuals.

“We will be doing the supplementary [in the budget]. We don’t want it to be that large. We are still determining the exact number. If necessary, we can request additional funding,” he said.

Meanwhile, Councilor Rudolph Jeffrey Ganzon, chairperson of the Committee on Disaster and Risk Management, said they could only approve the budget recommendation of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.

“We cannot justify increasing the budget because they are only basing it on the data of those affected. If we anticipate more than that, we will have a hard time but we will also prepare for that,” he explained.

Ganzon emphasized that the declaration of a state of calamity is timely as an early response to containing the spread of the respiratory infection.

“We have a budget for our information dissemination and we have to campaign on that for people to be aware that it is already alarming,” he added.

As for the inoculation of pentavalent vaccines among infants and children, Fortuna said they will be prioritizing the districts that have positive cases.

He furthered that while they cannot mandate the wearing of face masks, they strongly encourage it, especially for those exhibiting symptoms like mild fever, colds, and coughs.

“There is no mandatory wearing of face masks but we highly encourage the wearing of it. For those who are already showing symptoms, they can opt for the meantime not to go to school or wear facemasks, including adults,” he said.

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