Briones: Pneumonia scare

Publio Briones

IT’S not like the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) Cebu-Department of Health (DOH) Central Visayas acted alone when it implemented heightened surveillance at airports in Region 7, particularly at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020.

Our neighbors Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia have taken similar precautions after the People’s Republic of China reported an outbreak of a “viral pneumonia of unknown origin” afflicting 44 of its more than a billion citizens in the central city of Wuhan.

Apparently, 11 of the patients were running a fever and had difficulty breathing, while the rest displayed symptoms common to an upper respiratory tract infection like cough, sneezing, nasal discharge, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and nasal breathing.

By the way, the list of symptoms came from medicinenet.com. I had to look it up on the internet because I wasn’t very familiar with the malady and I thought people who had no idea what an upper respiratory tract infection was would like to know what to look out for.

I guess, DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas just assumed that it would be common knowledge. Or maybe he could not make an official disclosure because he didn’t have the go-signal from the central office in the capital.

You see, the decision to raise the alarm was unilateral. Well, it must have been. Otherwise, it would have been all over the news that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, the premier gateway to the country, was also monitoring international arrivals. But it’s not. I doubt Bernadas even consulted Health Secretary Francisco Duque about the move.

Which might explain why the health official could not provide specific information on the heightened health security measures they’ve adopted. After all, there is no department order.

“Surveillance is a standard practice, but we will shift to a more serious and more rigid screening when it comes to serious events like these. All incoming (passengers), irrespective of origin, will be screened,” the good doctor said.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather Bernadas erred on the side of caution than put everyone at risk.

Of course, it would allay my fears if I knew how they were addressing the problem. If, indeed, it is a problem.

Still, it’s good to know that the MCIA has a thermal image scanner.

Don’t ask me what it is. I also looked it up but the definition left me with a bigger question mark. Let’s just say it’s a device that helps BOQ personnel find passengers who are suffering from this mysterious virus.

How am I doing so far, Dr. Bernadas?