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No travel ban to Middle East over MERS-CoV

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the death of two overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) because of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona virus (MERS-CoV), the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday there are still no travel restrictions to and from the region.

Last Friday, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Interior had reported that six Filipino paramedics have contracted the virus and one of them died.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed this yesterday.

This brings to two the number of Filipinos who have died from the virus. The first fatality was a 41-year-old nurse who worked in a hospital in Saudi Arabia.

The DOH, however, advised travelers to the Middle East to avoid contact with persons with influenza-like illness and observe frequent hand-washing as precautionary measures.

“They must report to any hospital if they become ill within 14 days from arrival and delay visits to crowded places until symptoms disappear. Hospitals were instructed to report to the DOH any patient who may be suspected to have MERS-CoV infection,” the DOH said.

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It also advised those who have traveled to the Middle East and manifest severe respiratory illness to have themselves tested for MERS-CoV.

“As a policy, severe respiratory illnesses should be reported by hospitals to the National Epidemiology Center and Research Institute for Tropical Medicial, both run by the DOH, for confirmation of diagnosis,” it said.

The DOH assured the public that the Bureau of Quarantine has been strictly screening international travelers at the country’s airports to ensure that the entry of possible cases will be monitored.

MERS-CoV is a fatal respiratory illness, similar to influenza and characterized by fever, cough and even diarrhea.

DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag earlier said that there was limited data on the transmission of the virus but the advanced cases seem to be the most contagious.

Tayag said that since such cases are usually confined in the hospital, the virus does not spread to the general population.

As of April 13, the World Health Organization had documented 228 laboratory-confirmed cases, including 92 deaths from 10 countries, mostly from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The five other Filipinos affected by the MERS-CoV are under quarantine. – With Pia Lee-Brago

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