Philippines lists first Mers-CoV case

MANILA -- The Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday that a Filipina nurse from Saudi Arabia has been confined at a government research facility in the Philippines for contracting the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome–Coronavirus (Mers-CoV).

DOH spokesperson Lyndon Lee Suy said the 32-year-old woman experienced symptoms of the disease: fever, body pain, cough and difficulty of breathing.

He said doctors at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City are currently observing her situation in a negative pressure isolation room, which has a ventilation system to prevent the spread of the virus.

Lee Suy said the nurse's husband has also been placed in a similar room at the RITM after he developed cough.

The DOH ran three tests on the woman and the results were positive.

“This is the first Mers-CoV case that was tested in the country,” Lee Suy said.

The nurse and her husband arrived in the Philippines on February 1 via Saudi Airlines Flight 860 and did not manifest any symptoms of the disease.

“Because there were no symptoms, it was not detected by the thermal scanner in the airport,” said Lee Suy.

The next day, the health official said the patient sought medical attention after experiencing fever and cough.

On Tuesday, the patient was referred to the RITM to undergo Mers-CoV testing. The result of the tests came out on Wednesday.

Other members of the nurse's family, meanwhile, are set to undergo tests at the RITM. Contact tracing of the 224 co-passengers of the female nurse is also ongoing.

Lee Suy said they are using the Health Declaration Checklist accomplished by the passengers of Saudia Flight 860 upon arrival.

“While the possibility of other passengers on the plane being infected is low since she was asymptomatic, the possibility remains so we don’t want to take that risk,” he said.

He said the DOH is hoping that the co-passengers will cooperate.

“We are calling on them to submit to the necessary procedure in order to remove their anxieties if they have the virus or not. It is also for their own health and their families as well,” Lee Suy said.

A Filipina nurse, who also came from Saudi Arabia, was reported last September to be diagnosed with Mers-CoV, triggering massive contact tracing efforts from the DOH among the fellow plane passengers of the nurse.

Confirmatory tests, however, showed she did not contract the respiratory disease. The nurse was then discharged from a Davao hospital.

As of February 5, the World Health Organization tallied 971 laboratory-confirmed cases of Mers-CoV, including at least 356 deaths. (HDT/Sunnex)
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