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Amid threat of Covid-19 Flirt variant: Epidemiologist urges public to continue wearing face mask

By Ana-Liza S. Macatangay


THE government epidemiologist here is urging the public to continue wearing facemasks after the FLiRT was identified as the most common variant among people who tested positive for COVID-19.


Dr. Joey Rañola shared this information during the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Kapihan sa Camarines Sur event on Wednesday, May 29 at The Summit Hotel Naga.


FLiRT was coined by Dr. T. Ryan Gregory, a professor of evolutionary biology from Canada, who took the first letters of the spike protein mutations of the new variants.


Although the “flirty” variant appears to cause mild symptoms such as cough and fever, Dr. Rañola advised the public, especially those with underlying health conditions, to continue wearing facemasks as a precautionary measure, even without a specific health mandate.


Dr. Joey Rañola, Bicol Medical Center (BMC) Focal Person for Emerging & Re-emerging Infectious Disease (seated, far right) and Ms. Armie Cedo, RN, Health Education and Promotion Officer III of the Bicol Medical Center (BMC) (seated, far left) were invited as resource persons during the PIA Camarines Kapihan sa PIA. II Topic: Prevailing Health Concerns and Government Health Programs, May 29, 2024, Summit Hotel Naga. (JRM-PIA5/Camarines Sur) with some photos from Ariel Papalid of BMC)


“If you have a comorbidity, or perhaps experiencing flu-like symptoms, you have a cough or cold, even if wearing of face mask is not mandatory, kailangan mo mag mask para di ka makahawa (you have to wear a mask so you don’t get infected),” Rañola stressed.


Ghelay Dayrit, an 18-year-old Grade 9 student at a public school in Camarines Sur, believes wearing a facemask is still necessary, especially when interacting with classmates from various towns. She stated that she would not be complacent in removing her facemask in cramped and crowded spaces to protect herself from possibly catching the COVID-19 virus.


Having asthma since childhood, Ghelay chose not to receive any vaccine due to fears that it might worsen her condition. According to her, wearing a facemask is still the best option as it has been proven to reduce the transmission of airborne diseases.


In January, the Bicol Medical Center tested 287 individuals, and found that 163 persons were positive with COVID.


Among the 32 patients tested in February, 11 were found positive of the virus.


Dr. Joey Rañola, Bicol Medical Center (BMC) Focal Person for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Disease, urged the public to continue wearing facemasks after the FLiRT variant was identified as the most common variant among people who tested positive for COVID-19 during the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Kapihan sa Camarines Sur event on Wednesday, May 29, at The Summit Hotel Naga.


In March, 336 individuals underwent COVID screening. Five were tested positive, while one person died. In April, some 409 people were also screened, and 10 individuals were found positive of the virus. In May, 104 persons were screened, with 74 individuals being found positive.


Rañola stated that the unpredictable rise and fall in the number if cases can be attributed to multiple factors, one of which is the weather, especially the high heat index that threatens the elderly and children.


“Sa BMC, karamihan na cause of death is not because of COVID, kundi dahil sa mga incidental findings. Like naaksidente sila sa motor (In BMC, most causes of death are not because of COVID, but because of incidental findings. Like they had a motorcycle accident), we need to test them before admission, then they tested positive for COVID. They died not primarily because of COVID-19 but due to the seriousness of their condition.”


There are also stroke patients being admitted at BMC, we test them first for COVID as standard procedure. The tests returned with a positive result. Unfortunately, the patient succumbed to death, but the main reason is not COVID but due to the complications of stroke,” Rañola said.


Rañola also explained that the recorded COVID cases were from Naga and other patients in the neighboring towns of Camarines Sur. (LSM-PIA5)

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