DESPITE a Filipino coming home with the virus, the Philippines remains to be free of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Department of Health (DOH) said.

In a press forum, DOH Emerging Infectious Diseases Program Manager Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said that apart from the index case, which they eventually tested negative of the virus, there are no other cases of MERS-CoV found in the country with their contact tracing efforts almost over.

"We are still MERS-CoV free, as of now," declared Lee Suy.

He noted how 400 of the 414 passengers of Etihad Airlines Flight EY0424 have already been tested for MERS-CoV.

"They have been tested and the results are negative," said the DOH official.

He said the remainder of the passengers of Flight EY0424 are either awaiting results or are have yet to undergo laboratory testing.

Lee Suy, though, warned the public against sitting on its laurels and believing that MERS-CoV is going to reach Philippine shores.

"More countries are working on the MERS-COV. Meaning, there are more being exposed to it, particularly outside the Arabian Peninsula. We're not saying it would not happen here, but I'm hoping it doesn't happen here… we cannot be complacent about this, so we must be relentless in what we do," he said.

Lee Suy said it remains important for those arriving in the country from the Middle East region to be vigilant on possible symptoms of the MERS-CoV manifesting within 14 days.

"If you are experiencing symptoms like coughing, difficulty in breathing, sore throat or diarrhea, we advise you to go to the nearest DOH facility so you can be evaluated and examined so we can ascertain if it is MERS-CoV or not," said Lee Suy.

The DOH had said testing for MERS-CoV is free as it shall be shouldered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). (HDT/Sunnex)