SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, reminded fellow Filipinos, especially the elderly, to remain vigilant in the face of ongoing health threats. He emphasized that everyone is still at risk of contracting COVID-19 and the new bacterial infection known as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, commonly referred to as “walking pneumonia.”

Go, also the Chair of the Committee on Health of the Commission on Appointments (CA), emphasized during a committee hearing on Tuesday, December 5, the importance of maintaining health precautions, particularly the voluntary use of face masks, even as certain mandates are being relaxed.

The senator added that the threat of “walking pneumonia” adds a new layer of complexity to public health, urging citizens to stay informed and adhere to preventive measures.

“Though hindi na po mandatory ang pagsusuot ng facemask sa ngayon, ako bilang chair po ng Committee on Health, iniengganyo ko pa rin po ang ating mga kababayan kung hindi naman po sagabal sa inyo ay magsuot pa rin ng mask. Natutuwa po ako tuwing may nakikita po akong nagsusuot pa rin po ng face mask, lalung-lalo na po yung mayroong comorbidities na maaaring mahawa,” Go said.

Meanwhile, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro “Ted” Herbosa agreed with Go’s appeal, saying, “My advice is the same, yung natutunan natin no’ng Covid, yung social distancing at tsaka pagsuot ng facemask top etiquette para hindi magkahawahan. Kung may sakit ang bata huwag nang papasukin para hindi makahawa ng ibang bata sa eskwelahan.”

On Wednesday, December 6, DOH reported four cases of walking pneumonia within influenza-like illnesses (ILI) as of November 25. All individuals affected by these cases have since recovered.

“Only 4 (0.08%) of the confirmed influenza-like illnesses cases from January up to November 25, 2023 were due to M. pneumoniae or ‘walking pneumonia.’ All these cases have recovered. More than half of confirmed ILI cases were due to other well-known and commonly detected pathogens. We have medicines that can treat M. pneumoniae; and we can easily prevent its transmission,” DOH further clarified.

“The DOH reassures the public that detecting M. pneumoniae is not new or unusual… This is not a notifiable disease globally. The DOH can scan but we depend on what the media or the World Health Organization (WHO) will report. So far, the only country that has recorded incidents of Mycoplasma pneumoniae is China,” it added.

Highlighting his commitment to public health, Go continues to advocate for several proposed legislative measures aimed at strengthening the country’s healthcare system.

Go has filed Senate Bill No. (SBN) 195 or the creation of a Center for Disease Control (CDC). If enacted into law, the CDC would function as the nation’s central hub for disease prevention, surveillance, and control. The center’s mandate extends to both infectious and non-communicable diseases, ensuring a comprehensive approach to public health.

In tandem with SBN 195, Go has championed SBN 196, envisioning the establishment of a Virology Science and Technology Institute. This institute is designed to be a specialized center for virology, enhancing the country’s capabilities in studying, detecting, and combatting emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

“Mayroon rin tayong isinusulong na mga bills, itong mga Center for Disease Control or National Disease Prevention Management Authority. Kasali ito sa Philippine Development Plan ni President Bongbong Marcos para mayroon tayong disease control at opisina na nakatutok dito sa mga infectious diseases,” Go said previously.

“At ito ring Virology Science and Technology Institute, sana pagdating ng panahon mayroon na tayong kakayahan na makagawa tayo ng sariling bakuna para makapaghanda tayo sa anumang pandemya na darating sa ating buhay,” he added.

Go stressed the importance of the government being one step ahead, especially considering the experiences from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kaya naman the more na dapat natin tutukan ang ating health sector ngayon, the more that we should invest in our healthcare system dahil hindi ito yung huling pandemya na darating sa buhay natin. Huwag po nating hintayin na tuluyan nang bumigay ang healthcare system natin at malagay sa panganib ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan,” he urged.

In conclusion, Go stressed that by implementing necessary health measures, the government can be more prepared to address immediate concerns and build a foundation for a resilient and responsive healthcare system that can safeguard the well-being of all Filipinos.