Is the Philippines ready for an Ebola outbreak?

ebola_outbreakThe death toll is mounting in West Africa as the Ebola virus, which causes an often fatal haemorrhagic fever in its victims, ravages West Africa. The disease is spread amongst humans through blood and other bodily fluids. The world is starting to batten down as fears of the disease spreading beyond the region grows. Governments in affluent countries in North America, Western Europe and Northeast Asia as well as Australia have marshalled modern resources to prepare to face the threat. Quarantine measures in airports have been tightened and systems to rapidly respond to and contain an outbreak have been fired up there.

“The level of contamination on the ground is extremely worrying and we need to scale up our action before many more lives are lost,” said EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

In Hong Kong, a densely populated city previously scarred by disease outbreaks such as the 2003 SARS epidemic, health officials confirmed they would quarantine as a precautionary measure any visitors from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia who showed fever symptoms.

One woman arriving in the southern Chinese city from Africa, who showed symptoms including fever and vomiting, has tested negative for Ebola.

Australia said Thursday it was well prepared in the unlikely event that the Ebola virus reached its shores. Australia has already warned against travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

On Tuesday a meeting of the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia was convened, including key infectious diseases doctors and state and federal health authorities, to discuss ways to respond if Ebola was detected.

The Philippines has a sizeable chunk of its workforce deployed all over Africa and there may be significant risk that Ebola carriers may already be in-flight to Manila and many other Philippine airports. There is no known vaccine or specific treatment regime for Ebola, and patients suffering from its symptoms require immediate intensive hospital care.

Disease control is a particularly problematic challenge in Metro Manila, the world’s most densely-populated megalopolis which is home to a vast squatter community within which many residents lack modern sanitation facilities. One of the major gateways into this teeming city, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), is rated among the world’s worst and likely will lack adequate quarantine facilities to properly monitor and screen incoming overseas travellers. In mid-July this year, a ruptured sewage line reportedly engulfed large areas of the NAIA complex in offensive effluent stench.

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Manila’s creaking public transport system could also serve as high-speed arteries for the deadly disease. Sweaty commuters are often packed like sardines in buses, jeepneys and trains. Spitting and urinating in public is also a common practice among Filipinos and could possibly contribute to complicating efforts to contain the disease once it hits the Philippines’ shores.

The Philippines is woefully ill-equipped to deal with extreme health disasters. Even under normal circumstances, Filipinos already suffer virtually non-existent public health care capability. The country ranks 155th among 190 countries rated for public access to hospital care with only 1 hospital bed per 1,000 people. It is interesting to note that according to the rating agency that issued those numbers, the “failed states average” is 0.951 per 1,000 people.

With the coming typhoon and monsoon season, the Philippines’ ability to rapidly respond to threats against health and safety is increasingly attracting the spotlight. Chronic traffic congestion, vast swaths of flood-prone areas, and decrepit roads will make emergency response by land-based facilities extremely difficult. It is imperative that Filipinos start directing some of their attention to this looming threat. Even without the spectre of an Ebola outbreak, the Philippines is already vulnerable to outbreaks of other diseases.

28 Replies to “Is the Philippines ready for an Ebola outbreak?”

  1. And what is the Philippines government busy with today, amidst that clear and present threat to filipinos?


    Well at least they can do photo ops and issue press releases when the virus makes Philippine landfall and an outbreak maybe at hand. That is what they are good at anyway, reacting, just reacting….. no trace of any pro-activity…

    Correct me if I am wrong, but as of 1 Aug 2014 I have not seen any info/news about how the Philippine government is addressing the threat.

    But hey the news about Luy’s statement that Revilla got a bigger slice of the pork pie than Napoles is important, hell yeah!

  2. The fact that we are an archipelago may mitigate the effects of viral outbreaks on a nationwide level.

    But if one should, God forbid, happen in Manila, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, it would be impossible to contain there.

  3. I’m ready for our post-outbreak apocalyptic future. Manila is so cyberpunk it’s like a tv tuned to a dead channel.

  4. “…with only 1 Filipino per 1,000 hospital beds…”I think you mean that the other way around…a thousand hospital beds for each and every citizen actually sounds rather lavish.

  5. With the “bahala na mentality”, Phils. is never ready for anything. A nation of beggars run by pigs and thieves always asking for international aid.

    1. That is soo unfortunatly true. The country is just a fuckin mess. its been the experience of many visitors tha the 1st and last thing that happens is they get robbed/cheated/scammed. 1st by the scunbag taxi-drivers outside the airport and lastly by the BOI before getting into the boarding terminal to get on the departing plane.

      and the of course, every thing tha happens in between 1st and last thing. it would never be a good suggestion that people visit the hell-hole of a country.

      I hate to say it BUT it is what it is.

  6. the philippines is not ready for a nuclear accident therefore we should not build nuclear plants
    the philippines is not ready for a large oil spill therefore we should ban oil tankers
    the philippines is not ready for ebola threfore we should ban travel


  7. There was news on GMA News TV today saying that “precautions” were being taken to make sure Ebola doesn’t enter the country, but the only example they showed was temperature scanners in the arrival section of NAIA.

    “Temperature scanners.”

    No mention of a quick response team, quarantine measures or preventative actions if and when Ebola does enter.

    So no, the Philippines is NOT ready.

  8. Cities worldwide ranked by population density:
    1st) Maynila
    5) Mandaluyong
    8) Caloocan
    19) Navotas
    22) Malabon
    24) Pasig
    32) Pasay
    33) San Juan
    37) Makati
    48) QC

    I was surprised. Being a squatter’s haven, I was sure QC would be somewhere in the top 3.

  9. If ebola ever hits manila, I hope the local governments in visayas and mindanao see the opportunity, block all travel to luzon and declare independence.

    1. You cannot block the Fruit Bats, from flying from island to island. Nor people travelling from place to place…nor Monkeys (the real ones, not the politicians) from migrating…they are the transmitter of the Ebola Virus. Infected Swines (Hacienda Luisita Swines, maybe) are also tramitters of the Ebola Virus…

      1. You’re incorrect. Strains of Ebola found in Pigs, Monkeys and bats have never been proven to transfer to humans.

        They’re carriers of the Ebola disease, but they don’t transfer it to humans.


    2. Prophetically, maybe it is time for visayas and mindanao to declare independence now that manila is on lockdown due to Covid-19???

  10. The essay title asks a really dumb question, and the answer to that question is: HA, What do you think?

    I mean,really, c’mom….the country cant stop a battery operated clock, how they gonna stop the most deadly virus on the planet..LMAO!

    1. Filipinos have no Medical Quarantine System; no Specialist Doctors, that are knowledgeable of the desease.

      At present, there is no cure. They just Hydrate the patient, to keep him/her comfortable. Serious cases will make the kidneys and livers of the patients fail. Along with internal bleeding of the vital organs. No way to stop it. “Tepok ka talaga, kung matamaan ka ng Ebola virus…”

  11. Ebola Virus is known to be spread by Fruit Bats and Monkeys. It has no known cure, at present. Fruit Bats, are not affected by the virus.

    Bodily fluids, blood and semen can transmit the desease.

    Infected Pigs (Hacienda Luisita Swines) can also transmit it.

    Symptoms are fever, muscle pain, diarrhea and vomitting.

    Dense population can spread the desease easily.

    1. You’re incorrect. Strains of Ebola found in Pigs, Monkeys and bats have never been proven to transfer to humans.

      They’re carriers of the Ebola disease, but they don’t transfer it to humans.

  12. It is a scary scenario. Perhaps filipinos should be educated in basic hygiene. 1) Stop the macho spitting. Men seem to feel if they swallow a little of their own mucus that they will do themselves harm. 2) Stop visiting friends when you are sick. 3) Cover your mouths when you cough or sneeze; preferably with a kleenex. 4) Stop pawing through the meat in the case with your bare hands. 5) Stop sharing one shot glass among a dozen people. 6) Stop letting your dog run wild and shit all over public places. This should be pretty basic but few seem aware.

  13. Handa… or more likely, yung pintuan ng mga simbahan ay handa. As usual, idadaan ng mga Pilipino sa dasal ang lahat.

  14. Nah…unless the disease hits some 2bit Pinoy celebrity who has connections in politics, no way in hell the country is preparing itself beyond the bare minimum and I’m being generous.

  15. Can’t resist and I have to turn off my lurker mode. OBVIOUSLY, PINAS IS NOT READY FOR ANYTHING. Kung di nga ready sa malakas na buhos ng ulan then how can that shithole be ready for something like Ebola outbreak. NEVER WAS AND NEVER WILL.

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