DOH: Still no confirmed case of nCoV in Philippines

Robertzon Ramirez, Janvic Mateo, Mayen Jaymalin, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
DOH: Still no confirmed case of nCoV in Philippines
“So far we don’t have any confirmed cases of 2019-nCov,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo told reporters.
DOH Facebook Photo

MANILA, Philippines — While the Philippines still has no case of the new viral illness that has infected hundreds of people, the Department of Health (DOH) admitted yesterday that the deadly novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) could spread to the country.

“So far we don’t have any confirmed cases of 2019-nCov,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo told reporters.

Domingo noted that cases of 2019-nCoV were recorded in several countries, including the United States, so the possibility of the virus spreading to the Philippines is no longer theoretical.

“We have a case waiting for confirmation and there is a case in the US, which is farther and supposedly at lower risk,” he said.

Domingo said the strategy adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) is to enable every country to identify, isolate, contain and manage cases of 2019-nCoV.

As of last night, Domingo said the DOH was still waiting for the results of the swab samples taken from the five-year-old Chinese boy in Cebu City, who tested positive for coronavirus.

“The laboratory results from Melbourne, Australia may come out today or Saturday at the earliest,” he said.

Domingo said the boy is recovering and doing well, but remains confined in a Cebu hospital.

The health official said four family members of the first recorded case of 2019-nCoV in Hong Kong who arrived in the country yesterday did not manifest symptoms and were no longer tested for the virus.

“They are not sick so there is no need to test or admit them. But we are still monitoring them,” Domingo noted.

A report that two patients in Bohol are being monitored for suspected 2019-nCoV has yet to be confirmed, he said.

Domingo said those who have no history of travel to China, did not work in hospitals in Wuhan or had no contact with infected patients should not fear even if they are suffering from cough or fever.

“All those factors should be considered before one can be suspected of having acquired the new virus. So if one has cough or running nose, but did not come from Wuhan, that is not 2019-nCoV. It’s just flu season in the Philippines,’’ Domingo said.

He urged those who have traveled to Wuhan since Dec. 8 and are experiencing symptoms of the infection to go to DOH hospitals so they could be tested and treated.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said with no confirmed cases, the Philippines remains free from the new viral disease.

He urged arriving passengers to submit their health declaration cards and travel history to airport authorities for assessment.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) traced yesterday the whereabouts of the family of the Chinese man who tested positive for coronavirus.

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra ordered the BI to track down the family members.

Sandoval said they would send the information on the whereabouts of the Chinese family to the DOH for monitoring purposes.

Chinese boy ‘non-infectious’

The Chinese boy in Cebu City who tested positive for coronavirus appeared to be “non-infectious,” Duque said in an interview with Cignal TV’s “The Chiefs” on Wednesday night.

Duque said the virus acquired by the five-year-old boy could not possibly be transmitted from human to human.

He said the mother of the boy has not manifested symptoms of the virus since arriving with her child from Wuhan City.

“The hypothesis that there is no human to human transmission is right,” Duque said.  

The incubation period for 2019-nCoV is 14 days. The boy’s mother and their co-passengers in the flight to Cebu have not manifested symptoms, the health chief said. 

But Duque said there are “blind spots” for 2019-nCoV.

“There are blind spots and it has not been fully characterized in the extent of clinical manifestation and mode of transmission,” he said.

Duque said the new viral disease was initially reported to be transmitted from animal to human, then it attained rapid transmission among humans amounting to the possibility of human-to-human transmission.

‘Less deadly’

Compared to other strains of coronavirus such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV), Duque said the new virus is less deadly.

SARS recorded 10 percent fatality rate and MERS 30 percent as to only about two to three percent of the novel coronavirus.

Duque said there are different types of coronavirus, including a benign one that causes the common cold.     

Palace: No need to panic

Malacañang yesterday assured the public that there is no need to panic amid the coronavirus scare, saying the health department is on top of the situation. 

“It has not reached an alarming level that we have to do some drastic measures,” Panelo said at a press briefing. 

Panelo said airlines are also observing protocols, including examining people who exhibit flu-like symptoms like coughing. 

Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday called for immediate action to address concerns related to the 2019-nCoV that has spread to different countries.

“We need to take this seriously with much urgency,” she said. “It should not be business as usual. There should be a level of heightened urgency because this is really alarming.”

Robredo said airports and seaports in the country should have equipment to detect those who may have been infected by the virus.

The Associated Labor Unions asked the government and the airline industry to ensure the protection not only of the passengers but also of cabin crew, check-in counter personnel, immigration, airport security and maintenance workers. 

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