OFW with MERS arrives in Manila

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A vacationing Filipino nurse from the United Arab Emirates was found to be infected with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

The Department of Health (DOH) said the 45-year-old man is now in isolation in an unidentified hospital.

Health Undersecretary Ted Herbosa told The STAR the patient came in contact with a Filipino paramedic who died from the virus last April 8.

“They work in the same hospital so he paid the patient a visit last April 6,” he said.

“The patient died last April 8 and on April 14 he took a flight back home. But before leaving, he was traced to have had contacts with the patient so he underwent testing.”

Herbosa said the nurse was en route to the Philippines when Abu Dhabi health authorities notified the Philippine embassy that he has tested positive for MERS-CoV.

The embassy in turn informed the DOH, he added.

Herbosa said based on that information, the DOH was able to intercept the nurse at the airport on April 15.

“We informed him about the results of his test and since he is a nurse, he understood and voluntarily submitted himself for isolation in a hospital,” he said.

“We also put his wife, two children and a house helper who met him at the airport in quarantine.”

Herbosa said the DOH had also placed in quarantine five other overseas Filipino workers who came home with the nurse.

“So the DOH is now observing 10 persons because of contact tracing,” he said. “The worker who got in contact with the patient who died in the Middle East and his nine contacts.”

Herbosa said the nurse was not manifesting any symptoms of MERS-CoV like cough, fever or colds.

The nurse was subjected to photo chromatography reaction test at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine since it will take time before they can get the results of his laboratory tests, he added.

The DOH is expecting the results to come out by Friday.

It is sending on Sunday an epidemiology expert and an infectious disease specialist to the UAE to assist five other Filipino paramedics infected with MERS-CoV.

The Bureau of Quarantine is monitoring incoming passengers at airports and seaports, Herbosa said.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the DOH must ensure that all necessary precautions are taken to prevent the virus from spreading in the country.

“There is a need for the Department of Health to act on this new strain of SARS and immediately equip our local hospitals with the proper remedy in order to prevent the spread of this virus in the Philippines,” he said.

MERS-CoV cases have also been reported in Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Britain, France, Italy and Germany, he added.

Rodriguez said Egyptian virologist Ali Mohamed Zaki reported the new virus strain in September 2012 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“MERS-CoV is the sixth new type of coronavirus like SARS,” he said.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged all member-states to be on guard against MERS-CoV as six new cases were recorded in Saudi Arabia late last year.

“The six new patients – three women and three men – are from Riyadh with ages ranging from 14 to 79 years. One patient experienced mild symptoms of MERS-CoV, while the others were hospitalized.”

A total of 176 cases of MERS-CoV worldwide have been reported since September 2012, with 58 deaths, Rodriguez said. – With Jess Diaz

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