MANILA -- The government is fully equipped to prevent the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (Mers-CoV) in the country, officials assured Friday following reports that 11 Filipinos have manifested symptoms of the disease.
The 11 individuals have been confined at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City. They had close contacts with the Filipina nurse who earlier tested positive of the respiratory disease that has infected and killed hundreds, mostly in Saudi Arabia.
But Health Secretary Janette L. Garin said in a press briefing held at the DOH Media Relations Unit in Tayuman, Sta. Cruz, Manila on Friday that there is no reason no panic.
“While Mers-CoV has a mortality rate of 30 percent, human-to-human transmission is not that easy. Hence, there is no reason to panic. However, we have to be on guard and be vigilant in watching out for flu-like and asthma-like symptoms among travelers coming from the Middle East Region,” she said.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also assured Friday that "the government is intensifying efforts to guard all ports of entry such as airports and sea ports."
Garin said the Department of Health (DOH) continues to intensify its health protection efforts to prevent any possible spread of the disease.
The Filipina nurse, who arrived from Saudi Arabia on February 1, was first admitted to the Evangelista Medical Specialty Center in San Pedro on February 2 after complaining of fever, cough and breathing difficulty.
She was later transferred to the DOH RITM after her condition did not improve. Further tests confirmed that she has Mers-CoV.
Garin said though that the nurse, who is four to five weeks pregnant, is now in stable condition and is being closely monitored by health workers.
“Sa ngayon, stable ang patient and she is still being closely watched because of her situation,” the DOH official.
As to the 220 co-passengers of the nurse in Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 860, Garin said they were already able to locate 92 individuals who have agreed to be tested.
“We call on the remaining passengers to contact the DOH Hotline and undergo testing,” said Garin.
The DOH hotline is (02) 711-1001 and (02) 711-1002.
She also said Friday that the DOH is closely coordinating with private hospitals as referral center for the co-passengers of the Filipina nurse.
“They can also go to private hospitals but we strongly recommend that they go to our DOH identified hospitals where trained personnel can immediately handle them,” Garin said.
She also said that other DOH-identified hospitals were activated as testing facility for Mers-CoV. These include the Lung Center of Philippines, San Lazaro Hospital, Philippine Medical Center, and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.
In San Pedro, Laguna, Mayor Lourdes Cataquis said they will conduct community assemblies in their town to properly inform the people on the nature of the disease.
She said there is no reason to panic and that they do not require people to wear face masks.
“We are not requiring them to wear masks. Baka lalo magkaroon ng panic,” said Cataquis.
Cataquis also belied reports that there have been closure of schools and other offices in San Pedro.
“It is not true that the school (Pacita Elementary School) shut down its operations. Due to the spread of wrong information, some parents opted not to send their children to school. But it is now business as usual and the school is operational,” she said.
For her part, Dr. Cecilia Evangelista, owner of the private hospital where the 32-year-old Filipina nurse was first brought for treatment, assured that they are following the protocols on the disinfection needed for the hospital after the Filipina nurse was confined there.
She said the hospital also expressed willingness to be subjected to another form of disinfection process in compliance with the DOH and WHO requirements.
“Although we have conducted disinfection in the hospital, the management has decided to voluntary submit the hospital for disinfection this time by DOH and WHO to allay the fears of everyone,” she said.
According to Garin, the willingness of the hospital management to undergo another disinfection is a worthy sacrifice that will surely help ensure that the people of San Pedro, Laguna are safe.
“In fact, the disinfection will be continuous... They voluntarily submitted the hospital for another disinfection by DOH and WHO, which will result to temporary closure of about 14 days, a very big sacrifice for them,” she added.
The hospital will be operational again on February 24 after the disinfection. (PNA/HDT/Sunnex)