Doctors urge public in NIR: Wear masks despite ‘clearing’ of haze

By Judaline F. Partlow

DUMAGUETE CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -– The Department of Health (DOH) in Region 18 or the Negros Island Region (NIR) and a private doctor specializing in lung diseases on Monday urged the public in Negros Oriental and nearby areas to remain vigilant against the ill effects of the haze coming from Indonesia.

Dr. Lakshim Legaspi, OIC director of the DOH-NIR and Dr. Cesar Antonio Ligo, a doctor specializing on pulmonology, sounded off their calls even as the state-run weather bureau PAGASA in the Visayas in its latest update Monday afternoon said the haze was clearing up.

Engr. Oscar Tabada, chief of the PAGASA Visayas station, in a text message late Monday said that “based on the 11 a.m. (Monday) weather observation of visibility at PAGASA stations, moderate haze is present over the Zamboanga Peninsula, light haze over Metro Manila and light haze to clear over the rest of the country”.

While this was sort of encouraging news on Monday for people living in Cebu and Negros Oriental, who had experienced dense haze with elevated levels of particulate matter over the weekend, doctors are being extra cautious about the long term effects of haze.

Unless the raging fires in Indonesia are put out, there is always the possibility of a recurrence of pollution haze in the region, said Dr. Legaspi.

According to her, low wind velocity and the absence of rain contribute to haze lingering over the islands for extended periods.

Dr. Ligo, meanwhile, said he personally believes that authorities should not downplay the haze as “not alarming” and in fact, should even come up with a massive information dissemination campaign to alert the public against its ill effects.

“The haze coming from Indonesia, a distance of several hundreds of kilometers is much smaller in particle size and can easily bypass the normal clearing abilities of our upper respiratory tract. Incidence of asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) exacerbations, rhinitis and infections is expected to rise”, said Dr. Ligo.

“To think it is this time of the year when seasonal increase of these illnesses is also much expected. I only wish all can avail of the N95 mask which can virtually reduce significantly the particulates in the haze to be inhaled”, he added.

According to Dr. Ligo, the vulnerable groups, such as elderly, children and those with respiratory problems, should wear masks, stay indoors as much as possible and avoid long exposures to crowded places.

For those who cannot afford to buy the N95 mask, health authorities have advised to use wet handkerchiefs or hand towels.

So far, health authorities here cannot tell whether there is a bloated increase in the number of respiratory cases, but Dr. Legaspi said she will ask the DOH personnel to undertake surveillance of hospitals and other health centers in the coming days.

In Dumaguete, a number of flights were cancelled Friday due to low visibility attributed to the haze from Indonesia.

The thickening haze over the weekend hung low in this capital city that the nearby islands of Cebu and Siquijor could not be detected from the horizon.

Dr. Ligo called on the public to remain vigilant despite the supposed clearing of the haze as the ongoing forest blazes in Indonesia can still produce smoke or smog that can drift over to this part of the country. (PNA)