'Zero local transmission' of nCoV in Philippines, Health department emphasizes
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III speaks at a pressconference in Quezon City as The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday confirmed another case of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines, bringing total number of confirmed cases in the country to two, February 02, 2020.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

'Zero local transmission' of nCoV in Philippines, Health department emphasizes

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - February 3, 2020 - 2:29pm

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was careful to highlight on Monday that the two confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the Philippines were imported cases as the patients originally came from Wuhan in China.

According to Duque, the second confirmed carrier of 2019 nCoV who died on Saturday is recorded as a death on the part of China, which means that the Philippines still maintained "zero local transmission."

He became the first recorded death caused by the novel coronavirus outside of China.

The 44-year-old male companion of the first confirmed carrier of the virus, a 38-year-old woman, also tested positive for the virus, the DOH confirmed at a separate press briefing on Sunday.

Before his death, the man had reportedly contracted pneumonia and a strain of influenza along with the coronavirus. 

READ: What we know so far: First confirmed novel coronavirus case in Philippines

"Yung babae inuubo lamang, yung lalaki, linalagnat," Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, department spokesperson, added at a press briefing on Monday afternoon.

"Mukhang community-acquired talaga yung mixed infection [at] yung pneumonia."

(When the two came to the hospital together, the woman had a cough while the male had fever. It looks like the mixed infection and pneumonia are really community-acquired.)

Domingo explained that there were only six samples initially sent to a partner laboratory in Australia for testing for the novel coronavirus. The man's laboratory results were not among these. 

This was because his female companion's results were themselves suggestive of nCoV and they were sent to Australia first.

According to Domingo, there was also strong circumstantial evidence because they were partners. Thus, he said, the "decision [to declare the man a carrier] was a laboratory decision and not based on clinical results." 

"Yung index of suspicion, mataas. We were already assuming na malamang nCoV na ito," he added. 

(The index of suspicion was high. For sure this was a case of nCoV.) 

Other Persons Under Investigation

Sixty-seven out of the listed 80 Persons Under Investigation are still in isolation, while 10 have already been sent home after testing negative for novel coronavirus twice over a period of 24 to 48 hours, which Duque said was the department's official criteria before clearing a patient for release.

Dr. Ferchito Avelino, DOH Epidemiology Bureau director, said one of these PUIs was found after the bureau attempted to trace those who came into contact with the two confirmed carriers before their admission to the hospital.

READ: Cebu Pacific says it is locating co-passengers of 2 confirmed nCoV patients

"May symptoms na ubo at sipon at ito ay kasama sa bilang," he said.

Avelino also added that other contacts who were traced had already been directed by the bureau to self-quarantine for 14 days, which is how long the incubation period of the virus is.

"Seventy-four contacts na [ang] nabigyan ng nararapat na advice with regards to home quarantine. Ito po ay parang isolation lang din sa loob ng bahay," he said.  

According to Domingo, the travel suspension ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte on China and its special administrative regions was immediately implemented by airport authorities, as visitors arriving from mainland China, regardless of their nationality, were barred from entering the country.  "Pinabalik [sila] sa pinanggalingan nila," he said. 

READ: Duterte extends travel ban to visitors from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau amid nCoV scare

Domingo also said that the cremation of the man's corpse was already scheduled.

Duque said that the cadaver of the man was "potentially infectious" but "treated with care."

The cremation will be done as soon as possible, he said, following what he said was their standard procedure to dispose of the body. 

The inter-agency task force on the novel coronavirus is meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday afternoon. 

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