The Department of Health said it was on alert for new pathogens after an increase in influenza-like cases in the country.
Health Undersecretary Eric Tayag said patients with flu-like symptoms who visit DOH facilities are tested to identify the virus that caused their illness.
“We are doing this on a regular basis because we are on a watchout for new pathogens,” Tayag said.
Tayag said several cases were due to COVID-19 while others “point to influenza A or influenza B.”
The DOH has logged 190,000 influenza-like cases so far this year, he said.
Tayag urged doctors to promptly report any unusual clustering of flu-like cases.
“[That way] we can investigate and make sure that we also notify authorities as may be needed,” he said.
Earlier, an infectious diseases expert said people should wear masks and keep their vaccinations up to date amid reports of a surge in respiratory illnesses in China.
“Let’s not panic and conclude that this is another COVID or a novel pathogen we know nothing about,” said Dr. Rontgene Solante, president of the Philippine College of Physicians and an expert on infectious diseases.
“But it is also important while monitoring the situation that we take precautions because we know how rapidly illnesses can travel from one country to another because there are no restrictions,” he added.
Solante said vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly should take extra precautions as they could be easily infected with respiratory illnesses.
Aside from COVID-19 vaccines, Solante also urged the public to get flu shots.
Chinese health authorities have said the rising infections are a mix of already known viruses and are linked to the country’s first full cold season after strict COVID restrictions were lifted last December.
The WHO recommended that people in the affected areas follow the normal rules to avoid respiratory illnesses.
These include getting vaccinated, isolating if symptoms emerge, and getting tested or wearing masks if necessary.
Based on the current information, the WHO advised against any travel restrictions involving China. With Macon Ramos-Araneta