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DOH says PHL free of MERS-CoV


Roughly 21 days after a male Filipino nurse working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) returned home and unintentionally “brought” with him the mysterious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV), the Department of Health said on Monday the country remains free of the virus.

In an interview, inter-agency Task Force MERS-CoV spokesman Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said that 401 of the 414 people on board Etihad Airlines flight EY0424, which carried the male nurse to the Philippines on April 15, tested negative for MERS-CoV.

Lee Suy said that of the remaining 13 passengers, four were foreigners who have already left the Philippines, while nine could not be contacted.

“Of the nine passengers, we have their contact details, we went to their addresses, and we contacted their numbers, but we faced a dead end. We could not really reach them, despite the best effort,” he said.

'Critical phase' over

However, Lee Suy, who is also the program manager of the DOH Unit on Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, said that the 14-day “critical phase” of MERS-CoV incubation ended on April 28.

“We are done with the 14 days incubation period, which was a critical time frame to observe all possible cases. If there were cases that would come out, we expected them to come out during the 14 days of incubation,” he said.

“Today is already May 5, so 21 days have passed. If indeed these nine passengers showed signs and symptoms [of MERS-CoV infection], they must have seen or consulted with medical professionals or doctors. But as you may have seen, transmission was really low,” Lee Suy added.

The government budgeted at least P2.07 million to track, test, and monitor all the 414 passengers of the Etihad Airlines flight EY0424.

The initial test on the nurse in the UAE yielded positive results for MERS-CoV. However, two tests administered by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in the Philippines found the man to be negative of the virus. He was eventually discharged from a health facility.

The DOH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) are also finalizing details of a benefit package for PhilHealth members who may be infected with the virus. — BM, GMA News