MANILA – Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) face risk at their places of assignments. Recently, due to a conflict in the Middle East, OFWs in Libya were repatriated to the Philippines for their safety.
This time around it is the Ebola virus outbreak. As a precaution, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) has urged Filipino sailors to refrain from getting off their ships during port calls to three West African countries hit by the Ebola virus disease epidemic.
“We are warning our sailors that the risk of Ebola transmission is high,” said TUCP president and former Senator Ernesto Herrera. The Philippine Seafarers’ Union (PSU) is a member of TUCP.“Sailors should quarantine themselves and avoid shore leave when their ships stop for supplies, repairs, or transshipment of cargo in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” Herrera said.
During port calls to these Ebola-stricken countries, unauthorized persons should be strictly prohibited from boarding ships, according to Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.
“With respect to Nigeria, which may not be able to contain the spread of Ebola, we are also urging Filipino sailors to exercise caution,” he added.
Herrera made the statement shortly after a Filipino sailor in Togo previously suspected of having Ebola tested negative for the deadly virus. He was diagnosed instead with the flu.
The Philippines has been the world’s chief supplier of sailors since 1987. Some 375,000 Filipinos comprise one-fourth of the estimated 1.5 million merchant mariners worldwide.
The Philippines has already ordered the pullout of 115 Filipino peacekeepers in Liberia serving under the United Nations flag.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola epidemic as a global emergency. As of August 20, 2014, the WHO reported a total of 2,615 suspected cases and 1,427 deaths.
Ebola is a brutal illness in humans, with a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent. The virus is passed on to people from wild animals and spreads via human-to-human transmission.
Gravely ill patients require intensive care, and there is no licensed specific treatment or vaccine available for use in people or animals.
According to the WHO, symptoms show up two to 21 days after infection and usually include high fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, weakness, stomach pain and lack of appetite.