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Why nCoV fatality’s infection was confirmed later than Philippines’ first case

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The novel coronavirus infection of the 44-year-old Chinese male who succumbed to the virus on Saturday was known two days after his 38-year-old girlfriend was confirmed as the Philippines first nCoV case.

How did this happen?

According to the Department of Health, initial tests showed that the Chinese female's specimens were more indicative of nCoV and had to be prioritized for confirmation in Australia.

"Noong preliminary testing nila, ang mga resulta noong sa babae mas suggestive of nCoV kaya noong pwede kaming magsingit ng isa, ang naisingit 'yung sa babae," Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said at a press conference.

"Hindi clinical 'yung decision, it was a laboratory decision. Based on laboratory results, not on clinical results... Mayroong nakitang parts ng virus na possible na coronavirus," Domingo said.

Due to the potentially infectious nature of the samples, Domingo said Philippine health authorities were sending specimens for confirmation in batches of at most six.

"Nasabi na sa Australia na magpapadala tayo ng anim. Mahirap ang coordination dahil infectious samples ito, hindi ka puwedeng magpapadala ng pito o walo bigla," Domingo said.

The 38-year-old woman who came from China's Wuhan City was confirmed on Thursday to be positive for nCoV.

Her 44-year-old male partner's specimen was immediately tested by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), upon setting up a laboratory for local confirmatory tests after reagents and primer for the coronavirus strain already arrived in the country.

"Since we already had the capability for testing Thursday last week, we decided to test the sample of the other PUIs sent to us," RITM director Dr. Celia Carlos said in a separate press briefing in Malacañang.

"The official results for the second case was sent out last Saturday morning only," she added, noting that it came out before the patient died.

Asked why the health officials had to wait for the next day to make the announcement regarding the second confirmed case, Carlos said: "It was them who decided when to call for the announcement but that was late Saturday already. So, perhaps there was not enough time to gather people to make the announcement on the same day."

Carlos said that samples from the male Chinese national were also sent to Australia on Friday although the RITM already ran the local confirmatory test.

"We are waiting for the result [from the Australian laboratory] which may come probably anytime soon," Carlos said.

Case management

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the first novel coronavirus fatality in the Philippines—also the first outside China—was managed properly at San Lazaro Hospital in Manila upon admission on January 25 due to "fever, cough and sore throat."

"Mag-partner, magkasama [sila noong first confirmed case], 'yung index of suspicion mataas kaya 'yung management is the same as for nCoV, pneumonia. That was really our assumption. We were already assuming na malamang nCoV ito," Duque said.

The DOH previously said that the male patient developed severe pneumonia but showed signs of improvement. However, his condition rapidly deteriorated and resulted in his demise.

His female partner is still isolated from other patients at the hospital. She will not be discharged until she gets cleared from her existing novel coronavirus infection, according to Duque. —NB, GMA News

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