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DOH reports no ‘walking pneumonia' outbreak in absence of routine testing

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Health Secretary Ted Herbosa said there is currently no recorded outbreak of “walking pneumonia” cases in the Philippines based on the monitoring of its epidemiology bureau.

Earlier, DOH Undersecretary Eric Tayag said that the health department has not reported any outbreak of “walking pneumonia” — which causes cold-like symptoms but is caused by mycoplasma bacteria — because there is no routine testing for the illness.

During the Commission on Appointments’ deliberation of his appointment as DOH chief, Herbosa said that while no outbreak of the respiratory illness has been observed, the public is still advised to practice health and safety precautions.

"Sa Philippines po, wala pang outbreak according to our epidemiology bureau, although marami ang cases (In the Philippines, there is no outbreak yet, according to our epidemiology bureau, although there are many cases),” Herbosa said.

Herbosa added that it is the “season of respiratory illness” and said that the public should take the same precautionary measures during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The social distancing and the wearing of face masks, having a cough etiquette, should be done to avoid catching illnesses,” he added.

In a radio interview last week, Tayag explained that the illness has been recorded in the Philippines before but doctors would prescribe antibiotics to suspected patients to ease their symptoms.

Tayag also said that “walking pneumonia” got its name because patients suffering from the illness can continue with their everyday activities. But persons catching the bacteria — mycoplasma pneumoniae bacteria — are contagious even if they do not exhibit symptoms.

The bacteria is “90% to 95%” drug-resistant in China, Tayag said, which means antibiotics do not affect the illness.

“We are having it checked now if that is also the case in the country,” the DOH undersecretary said. 

Tayag added that no equivalent antibiotics are available for children.

The DOH in November reported a slowdown in cases of influenza-like illness, with only regions reporting a “clustering” of cases but no outbreak of infections.

Clustering refers to several cases taking place in