DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo revealed that the suspected carrier of the disease worked in Wuhan City, the epicenter of the 2019-nCov outbreak, and arrived in Tacloban last Jan. 17.
Rudy Santos
Tacloban man, Philippines second suspected case of coronavirus
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2020 - 12:00am

TACLOBAN, Philippines — A 36-year-old man from Tacloban City who had worked in Wuhan, China is feared to have contracted the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.  

DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo revealed that the suspected carrier of the disease worked in Wuhan City, the epicenter of the 2019-nCov outbreak, and arrived in Tacloban last Jan. 17.

He said the man is now being investigated by the DOH, considering him as the second “suspected case” of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines, after the Chinese boy reported in Cebu.

“We have two suspect cases. One is the patient in Cebu – the first person under investigation (PUI) – and then we have another PUI in Region 8,” Domingo said.

The man was manifesting fever and cough when he arrived in Tacloban from China, he said. 

At present, the man is in stable condition at a hospital and placed in isolation, pending the laboratory tests to be conducted on him.

Those who came in contact with him are now on “home quarantine” and being monitored closely by the DOH and health authorities in Tacloban, Domingo said.

Chinese boy has no nCoV

Meanwhile, the five-year-old Chinese boy in Cebu is now categorized as a “probable case” for 2019-nCoV after he tested positive for “non-specific pancoronavirus assay.”

What this means is that he is infected with a certain type of coronavirus, the DOH said.

There are seven strains of coronavirus, including the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

The boy turned out negative of SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV when examined by the DOH-run Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The DOH submitted the boy’s specimens to the Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia for confirmatory tests “to identify the specific coronavirus strain.”

Domingo said the Australian laboratory received the samples Thursday afternoon but is expected to come out with the results on Tuesday.

3 Chinese tested in Kalibo

Meanwhile, three more Chinese vacationing in Boracay were referred to hospitals in Kalibo due to fever, physician Cornelio Cuachon of the Aklan Provincial Health Office said.

But among the three, only one of the patients remained in confinement yesterday – a six-year-old boy also from Wuhan.

He was first taken to the Ciriaco S. Tirol Hospital in Boracay last Thursday, then referred to the Dr. Rafael S. Tumbukon Memorial Hospital (DRSTMH) for further examination.

“He is still in the hospital and is doing oral medication. It will be up for the attending physician to release the boy once his fever subsides and will display no other symptoms,” Cuachon said. 

Earlier, a one-year-old boy from Nanjing City, capital of China’s eastern Jiangsu province, was intercepted by authorities at the Kalibo airport for running a 40.5 °C fever.

After being taken to the DRSTMH on Wednesday, the boy’s fever subsided and he was discharged the next day.

The third case was a woman about to board a flight to Manila at the Caticlan airport. She was also referred to the DRSTMH for a medical check and released as an outpatient.

Cuachon said that as a precautionary measure, specimens were taken from all three Chinese patients and the same were sent to the RITM in Alabang for testing. — With Jennifer Rendon, Rudy Santos, Robertzon Ramirez, Paolo Romero, Edith Regalado

22 consultations 

Since the outbreak of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan last month, there have been 22 individuals in the Philippines who have sought consultation for manifesting symptoms of the disease after traveling to China. 

Domingo said four of these are from Makati City who eventually tested negative for coronavirus and a two-year-old child in Aklan. 

“We still don”t have information on the two-year-old. The case is with the Provincial Health Office,” he told The STAR in a text message.

The rest of the patients turned out positive for other viruses like flu but not the coronavirus, Domingo said.

Asked about the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) not to declare the 2019-nCoV as a “public health emergency of international concern,” Domingo gave assurance that the DOH will not let its guard down. 

“We are on alert because we are really near China and the Asian region, of course, has higher probability of the virus coming in compared, for example, to countries that are far (from China),” he said.

Safety measures

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has implemented measures at the four terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) against the possible threat of 2019-nCoV.

MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal ordered the installation of hand sanitizer dispensers at the immigration counters, customs and at the arrival lobby for passengers and employees to use.

He also located an isolation room for human quarantine doctors to examine incoming passengers with fever.
Wearing of face masks has not been ordered, but the MIAA advised the practice of cough etiquette which entails covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Safety measures against the novel coronavirus have also been enforced by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in partnership with the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) for sea travelers. 

 “Our port state control officers, together with the Bureau of Quarantine personnel, conduct comprehensive inspection of all foreign vessels that enter major ports across the country,” said PCG Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia.

He ensured stricter screening and safety measures to prevent the entry and possible spread of the new strain of coronavirus in the Philippines.

In another development, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it has started denying applications for visa-upon-arrival (VUAA) for tour groups coming from Wuhan, China. 

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said that they were compelled to deny applications for VUA after the Civil Aeronautics Board ordered to suspend direct flights from Wuhan. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) assured the public that it is closely coordinating with the DOH on measures and alerts against the new coronavirus strain.

“They (DOH) are the ones who issue advisories that we distribute (to our stakeholders),” DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones.

‘Isolation is key’

Sen. Richard Gordon suggested that all incoming travelers from China should pass through dedicated lanes in the country’s airports and seaports for better screening against infections.

“If you transited from or came from China, there must be an investigation in our ports and airports,” Gordon said.

He urged the government to put stricter quarantine areas or “firewalls” for individuals who will test positive for the virus and called on the DOH to set up isolation wards in hospitals.

“Every hospital, every health facility public, private or run by local governments have to put in place contingency plans for patients who are consulting for runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever,” he said.

Not taking chances

Davao City has also stepped up precautionary measures against the entry of the 2019-nCoV.

City Health Office head Josephine Villafuerte said that with the help of the Bureau of Quarantine, there is tougher screening of people at all points coming to the city.

The screening is particularly tight at Davao international Airport, which receives daily domestic flights and international flights from Hong Kong, Singapore, Manado and Quanzhou.

So far, there have been no suspected cases of the virus in the city.— Jennifer Rendon, Rudy Santos, Robertzon Ramirez, Paolo Romero, Edith Regalado

DOH ERIC DOMINGO
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