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DOH reports new MERS-CoV case in PHL

(Updated 1:06 p.m.) The Department of Health has confirmed that a foreigner from the Middle East has been found positive with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a television report said Monday.
GMA News TV's News to Go reported that the patient is now confined at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City.
This is the second MERS-CoV case in the country. 

In February, a Filipina nurse who arrived from Saudi Arabia tested positive for the virus. Later that same month, she was cleared of the virus.

Following her recovery, Health Secretary Janette Garin declared that the Philippines no longer had an active case of MERS-CoV at the time. 


Meanwhile, in an interview with radio dzBB, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said it was on July 2 when the symptoms were first felt by the patient. The patient was referred to the RITM on July 4 and the MERS-CoV case was confirmed that afternoon.
“Ilang araw na siya sa quarantine. Nung nagpatingin siya nasa 14 na araw na siya,” Suy said.

The DOH refused to give the identity of the patient except saying that it is male, 36 years old, and from the Middle East. The Health Department also refused to divulge when the patient arrived and where the patient resides in the Philippines.
“Mine-maintain natin yung confidentiality sa identity nila para hindi naman matakot iyong iba na magpatingin rin,” Lee Suy said.

He said they are now tracing the 200 passengers of an international flight the patient boarded on the way to the Philippines.
Prior to this, the patient came from Dubai and had a stopover in Saudi before proceeding to the Philippines but there is no need to trace them as the incubation period has already lapsed, the DOH said.
“Nagko-contact tracing na kami ngayon, hinahanap iyong mga na-expose sa pasyente para masiguro ang kanilang kalusugan. Nagko-contact tracing kami sa komunidad kung saan siya nakatira para malaman kung ano ang kalagayan nila. 200 katao na isinasalang sa contact tracing,” he said.

At least eight Filipinos had a close contact with the patient, with one of them now confined at the RITM after showing symptoms while the seven others were under home quarantine and have yet yet to show any symptoms.
The DOH also said the patient is now recovering, and has low viral load indicating he has strong immune system.

Strict monitoring ordered

In Malacañang, President Benigno Aquino III directed the DOH to step up its monitoring of possible MERS-CoV cases after a foreigner who entered the country tested positive for the virus.
In a statement, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino had particularly ordered tighter “surveillance and quarantine measures” at all of the country’s ports of entry.

The DOH was also asked to “ensure the prompt reporting by all hospitals of patients who show symptoms of the disease for immediate isolation, treatment and contact tracing,” he added.

Lee Suy advised the public not to panic as the transmission usually happens in the hospital. He added that there is no documented community transmission of MERS-CoV.

“Kailangan may direct exposure ka bago ka mahawa ng MERS-CoV, nag-alaga ka o nakisalamuha ka sa pasyente. Karamihan ng transmission ay nangyayari sa mga health workers dahil sila ang nangangalaga sa mga pasyente,” he said.


MERS was first identified in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and the majority of cases have been in the Middle East. Scientists are not sure of the origin of the virus, but several studies have linked it to camels.
Isolated cases cropped up in Asia before South Korea recorded the biggest number in an outbreak that started in May.
Nearly 180 people have been infected and 27 people have died in South Korea, the largest outbreak outside Saudi Arabia. In the Thai capital Bangkok, more than a hundred people were believed to have been in contact with an Omani man, the only MERS case in Thailand who eventually recovered.
The World Health Organization described South Korea's outbreak as a "wake-up call" but said it did not constitute a global emergency. — Amita Legaspi with Reuters /RSJ/KG/KBK, GMA News