The Philippines has asked boxing idol Manny Pacquiao to delay his hero’s return to the country as a precaution against the spread of swine flu from the United States.
Pacquiao, considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, cemented his reputation Saturday night when he knocked out British boxer Ricky Hatton in the second round of a match in Las Vegas, Nevada. The 30-year-old is a national hero in the Philippines where his bouts bring the country to a standstill. The nation planned a “national day of celebration” for him on Friday. However, the country’s health secretary on Wednesday offered Pacquiao one of two options: Stay in Los Angeles, where he went with his family after his victory. Or return home and immediately go into self-quarantine. “He requested a home quarantine for Manny Paquiao to stay where he is right now for another five days upon the advice of the country representative of the World Health Organization,” said Dr. Eric Tayag, director of the country’s national epidemiology center. “And after five days, if he doesn’t have any signs or symptoms, he and his entourage can travel.” The virus has an incubation period of seven days. Symptoms of swine flu are not apparent during the incubation period, and a seemingly healthy-looking person can pass it on during that time.
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The Filipino government is concerned that the Pacquiao motorcade could spread the virus to someone in the crowd during the rally if any one in his entourage is infected. The Philippines has not reported any confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus. But officials there are worried about the number of cases of the virus confirmed in California. By Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reported 49 confirmed cases in the state out of a total of 403 cases in 38 states. Pacquiao told Filipino reporters he will make a decision by Thursday morning.
Nicknamed “Pacman,” he grew up poor in General Santos City in the southern Philippines. He found boxing as a way to lift himself to fame and riches, yet he remains self-deprecating outside of the ring. It is this combination of being a fierce fighter in the ring and a smiling deferential one outside that has helped turn him into an idol.