OPINION: Influencing communities on influenza

Buddy Gomez — Cyberbuddy

Posted at Jan 17 2020 12:27 PM

This is not a distraction from nature’s fury which currently is in the form of Taal Volcano’s epic eruption. 

Rather, it is a precautionary reminder of a peril that stalks our fair islands daily, from the very air we breathe and the unconscious, unmindful activities that humans engage in hourly in every moving space. At home, at school, at work, at play, etc.

And in the wake of this prevailing anger of Mother Nature, how prepared are we for the inevitable aftermath? 

The prevalence and potential upsurge of disease-related risks is much heightened as a consequence of natural calamities such as typhoons and the rarer volcanic activities. Start with the evacuation of populations and the ensuing concentration of humans within a limited and defined area. Evacuation centers are a congested congregation of germ carriers. 

Let us then begin to monitor the news, in the hope that public consciousness and information are enhanced by correct and timely news reportage. The perils of medical contagion is a community concern that should involve all responsible adults.

Without intending to be alarmist, please think and ever be conscious of influenza. The flu! It is the most common and can easily turn virulent. It is seasonal and visits with regularity. Just to be sure, let us describe it. Influenza is a respiratory infection caused by viruses that float and travel through the air we breathe that can enter our bodies through the mouth and the nose!
Let us be aware that influenza is easily transmissible through airborne exposure. Its 8 earliest symptoms, especially among children, are sneezing, coughing, sore throat, runny nose, chills, aches and pains, fever. When it comes to health and hygiene, nothing should ever be taken for granted.

The latest available data from the World Health Organization indicates that the Philippines’ influenza (and pneumonia) death rate was 76,000 (rounded out), representing 12.27 % of all deaths recorded in 2017. It is the number three leading cause of death after Heart Disease and Stroke. The Philippines ranks number 24th in the world. (Source:www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/philippines-influenza-pneumonia)

It is far better to be ‘praning’ (paranoid) than sorry. Shall we agree that shooting from the hip beats being caught with pants down!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the US government has on its website: “Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu.” Here it is: www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm. This is a veritable almanac on influenza and indeed useful. It might be worthwhile saving it in your personal archives.

I am not aware of any pulse-taking surveys in the country that measure the levels of health and hygienic sanitation consciousness spread among the Filipino demographics. If there has been none so far, it is best and timely that one such source of very useful information had better be polled, the results of which made available to the public. That ought to provide the platform from which to launch a better expression of care and concern for the physical health of the population. The aim is simple and critical: to generate interest in health education and healthy habits to the point of public consciousness as an element of daily life. That is a civilized and socially relevant objective. Disease prevention gets a better boost with correct and useful information that is shared repeatedly and periodically. 

In this regard, traditional/mainstream media must be at the vanguard for the community and assisted by the unvarnished truth through social media. Social media, as now we realize, has earned an indispensable niche in our daily lives because of its astronomical reach and evident influence. But we must likewise be aware of its very easy pitfalls by making doubly certain that the irresponsibly naughty and malicious in this our Filipino “Regime of the Untruth’ are effectively screened out and checked.
 
The idiocy of the Public Attorney’s Office as principal instigator of the infamous ‘Dengue cum Dengvaxia’ episode in contemporary politics must never be tolerated and countenanced ever again. Remember how much that manufactured scare was politicized through mainstream broadcast news? Politics molesting medicine and health science! The result was a marked decline in public trust for the efficacy of vaccines.

Deaths through infectious causes like tuberculosis and/or influenza are not normally reported by mainstream media unless it involves a person of renown or a celebrity. Quite unlike the news treatment of bloody vehicular accidents or of deaths by violence/crime stories which have become the daily staple of much television news.

A one-man source of periodic health news is our Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III. I think he has proven to be very good at periodically making announcements regarding the nation’s health situation. Unfortunately, his counsel is not given sufficient impact necessary to bring hygiene and sanitation into public consciousness as common man’s second nature. The results of such an endeavor will take a while to get ingrained. Dr. Duque will need more media and public support than what his health bulletins are currently receiving.

Coincidentally, I found an example of how public consciousness is promoted in local communities hereabouts in Texas. I noted that even a hint of a communicable ailment occurring is shared with the community, health consciousness inevitably enhanced.
 
FOX 4 / KDFW News TV that serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area in North Texas, just a few days ago, reported the death a 16-year-old girl: “A junior at Bishop Lynch Catholic High School in Dallas died and it may have been from the flu ……. Her family believes she died as a result of the flu.” The broadcast news added: “Dallas County Health and Human Services officials have said they’ve seen an increase in flu activity this season.” The coincidence brings about further human interest because the “junior” the telecast news spoke of was a Fil-Am child of a practicing doctor. She was Reese Termulo. There followed, a personality sketch of Reese, her school activities and how much she will be missed.

In fact, on the same broadcast date, but in a separate story: “Dallas County reports its 6th flu-related death of the season …. Another person in Dallas County has died from the flu.” I did surf other sources of local news and I noted that indeed there is regular reportage on health matters, illnesses and deaths so caused.

In both stories, there was a common thread. Cautionary, caring concern and humane. It is a model of public communication we can adopt and emulate.

In my humble view, news of this nature shared with the community with regularity, as they occur, serve as a reminder that it is far better to be somewhat paranoid about health habits than ultimately sorry.                

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Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.