Gov’t hospital in Davao City capable of treating meningococcemia – official

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 January)—A health official here assured the country’s biggest government hospital is equipped to handle diagnosis and treatment of highly contagious diseases like meningococcemia.

Dr. Leopoldo Vega, head of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), gave the assurance in the wake of reports that the death of a 10-month-old boy Friday was caused by meningococcemia, although gram stains yielded negative results.

”The death was caused by the collapse of the system, his heart and lungs were no longer working,” Vega said, adding it could already be sepsis or a condition where the infection has already spread to other parts of the body.

He said they are still awaiting the laboratory culture results before hospital authorities can say for certain what caused the baby’s death.

”Suppose it was meningococcemia, the disease only happens sporadically, not in epidemic proportion,” he said.  ”We only have one or two cases per year.”

”The symptoms [of meningococcemia] can be very complex, sometimes it mimics other diseases,” he said.

Vega said initial gram stains yielded negative results but culture test results, which usually take seven days, are still expected this week.

But unlike before, when the hospital had to send the specimen to Manila for laboratory tests before they can detect the disease, SPMC is now equipped both with expertise and laboratory equipment for the  diagnosis and treatment of contagious diseases from H1N1 to meningococcemia, he said.

”The only way you can pinpoint the particular disease is to have an analysis and culture of the specimen and to isolate the virus or the bacteria,” Vega said.  ”Once you isolate the virus or the bacteria, then, you can possibly say, this is H1N1, or this is meningococcemia,” he said.

The physician said meningococcemia can develop fast and can be potentially fatal, depending on the resistance of the individual.

The baby boy who died was brought to the SPMC Friday night based on the referral of the Acosta Medical Clinic, which diagnosed the case as meningococcemia. He died only minutes after he arrived at the hospital.

”For cases like this, whether it is meningococcemia or other viral infections that can be contagious, SPMC is ready in terms of diagnostic and in terms of treatment,” Vega said.  ”In fact, SPMC is now the center for the isolation of H1N1. Remember, when we had H1N1 last year, it was very hard to isolate the virus, we had to send the sample to Manila and for them to confirm the sample.”

He said the machine that can isolate the virus takes some amount of expertise to operate.

”Now, there was a notice for us to go ahead [and isolate the virus] because the personnel is already here, and the equipment is here,” he said.

Dr. Cleofe Tabada, disease surveillance officer of the Department of Health (DOH), said health officials in Bunawan district have already administered prophylaxis on the persons exposed to the 10-month-old boy suspected to have died of meningococcemia even if they have yet to confirm if the disease was really the cause of his death.

”Kadtong nag alaga sa baby, kato sila-gina (Those who took care of the baby are now administered with) prophylaxis,” she said. ”Ang nag handle, district office sa Bunawan (The one who handles it is the health district of Bunawan). ”

”We always work on the presumption that it was meningococcemia until the results of the culture test proves it,” said Vega.

But he said that aside from simply cleaning the taxi which brought the baby to the hospital, there’s no need to be scared because the virus cannot survive for long outside of the human body. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)