24 June 2009

How They're Stopping (A)H1N1 in Philippine Airports

Airports are gateways. They serve as starting points of anything new introduced to a country. Yes, including viruses like the (A)H1N1. That's why airports around the world have instituted several procedures to deter the entry of the dreaded disease. In the Philippines, here is what they're doing:

First, they ask you to fill up a yellow form called a 'Health Declaration Checklist' like the one below:

No one is exempted. Foreigners and returning Filipinos are all expected to fill up the yellow form. They give you the form even before your plane lands. However, if you analyze the questions and the important reminder, the questionnaire's accuracy depends a lot on honesty. That's right, HONESTY. How honest are people? As Mencken said, it is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know if you were in his place, you would lie.

So, to the questions --- "Have you had any fever, cough, headache, body weakness?" and, "Do you work in a clinic, nursing home, piggery, poultry, zoo?" --- one can expect a high degree of inaccurate answers to be given by passengers who want to go their hotels or home as fast as possible. That is just my opinion, okay? I believe it is human nature to lie because it is easier to do. Telling the truth means the possibility of quarantine, after all.

What would one answer to the question, "Do you have any household member(s) or close friend(s) who have met a person who currently has fever, cough, and/or respiratory problems?" Even people who do not travel but work every day have probably met 1 or more people with fever and cough, right?

Second, if a passenger gets away with lying with his Health Declaration Form, he still has to pass the famous 'thermal scanner' as seen below:

The thermal scanner screens for people with fever. Incubation period is defined as time elapsed between exposure to the virus (or any offending agent) and when flu symptoms like fever manifest. Therefore, it is always possible for people to unknowingly carry the flu virus, the (A)H1N1, and NOT have fever yet.

So, do thermal scanners work? Yes. For people with fever only. For those without, you know the answer.

Third, if the passenger is health-conscious, he might follow the health tips in posters found in the airport:

But knowing most tired travelers, their only concern is to get out of the airport and get home to have that much needed rest as quickly as possible. Who reads posters but children and young people?

Fourth, interested travelers might like to use the strategically-placed hand sanitizers on the immigration booths. I must confess though that when I was there, I did not see anybody use any of the sanitizers.

Fifth and last, before I forget, there's also that method of imposing self-quarantine on yourself.

Now, who better to set an example that the leader of our land, who is now currently traveling in Japan and Brazil (countries which also have (A)H1N1 cases) but is set to return home this weekend?

But you know what our Health Department says? No. Our President does not have to do that self-imposed quarantine.

In the first news item, you will read that a certain Dr. Asuncion Anden says that that the "government-required self-quarantine remains in place," then suddenly in the second news article, the government's health secretary says that self-imposed quarantine are only for those with flu symptoms. Well, okay. If you say so, sir.

Good luck to the rest of us.
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