By Analou De Vera
The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said it is “closely monitoring” the health situation of families in evacuation centers affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas last Sunday.
Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo said around P1.5 million worth of logistics were mobilized in the affected areas.
“The Department of Health is distributing supplies like masks, respiratory medicines for asthma, water containers, and purifiers for the affected areas and we are also mobilizing our health workers,” Domingo said in an interview at the DOH head office in Sta. Cruz, Manila on Monday.
Hospitals on blue alert
Domingo said all government hospitals in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) were placed under the “code blue” alert, meaning 50 percent of all hospital personnel must report for duty to render medical services.
The health official noted that hospitals in Calabarzon were not yet “overwhelmed” with patients.
“Sa ngayon hindi naman sila overwhelmed. I mean, hindi naman nag-increase pa ‘yung number of cases natin ng respiratory illness (As of now, they are not yet overwhelmed. I mean, the number of cases of respiratory illness has not increased yet),” Domingo said.
“What we are most concerned [with] now really is bringing the health workers to the evacuation centers, [as well as] congestion, water supply, and hygiene. We don’t want any disease outbreaks happening in the evacuation centers.”
Domingo also said “no casualties have been reported at this time.”
Meanwhile, DOH-Calabarzon Regional Director Eduardo Janairo said all health facilities in Calabarzon are ready to respond to any emergency situation following the eruption.
“All health facilities are ready to provide preventive measures on the possible effects caused by the volcanic eruption that may include traumatic injuries, burns, suffocation, skin diseases, eye injuries, respiratory problems, conjunctivitis, and even death,” Janairo said in a statement.
“Health emergency personnel, provincial health team leaders including mental health teams are being deployed to specific areas to provide immediate medical and health services.”
DOH: Use N95 face masks
DOH advised people living in the affected areas to use N95 face masks for protection. Janairo said DOH will be “distributing free N95 face masks, including eye drops and protection kits, to residents of high risk areas in the (Calabarzon) region.”
“What we really recommend is the use of the N95 mask because it is the most efficient [in avoiding inhalation of volcanic ash]. In less affected areas, people can use surgical masks or (multiple layers) of cloth,” Domingo said.
He added that it is important for people who are asthmatic and those with emphysema or chronic pulmonary diseases to use face masks. “We don’t want them exposed [to] possible triggers for the attack of asthma or difficulty of breathing. We want them (face masks) to be used by people who are at high risk, meaning people who have pulmonary illness.”
Domingo also said they are coordinating with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to monitor the prices of face masks amid reports that some pharmaceutical stores have raised their prices for the product.
“Huwag naman mag-hoard (Do not hoard) or to take advantage of the situation kasi (because) there are people who need it more,” he said.