MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.
The man returned Tuesday on an Etihad Airways flight and immediately subjected himself to quarantine along with relatives and others who greeted him on arrival from the United Arab Emirates, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said.
“Fortunately, as well as for the comfort of everybody, the findings of our Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, he tested negative,” Ona said.
The nurse was a co-worker of a Filipino paramedic who died from infection in the UAE on April 10.
Ona said the government has been trying to locate all 415 passengers on the April 15 flight 0424 from Abu Dhabi to Manila for testing for the frequently deadly virus.
He also urged other Filipinos returning from the Middle East with flu-like symptoms to report to the nearest hospital.
Abu Dhabi-based Etihad has said that health authorities in the Emirates were also contacting the passengers while crew members were being screened for the virus.
Emerging Infectious Diseases Program Manager Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said there was currently no epidemic of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, and the World Health Organization has not issued any restrictions on travelling to or from the Middle East, where more than 1 million Filipinos work.
Lee Suy said 119 passengers have been contacted and 72 tested with 40 so far showing no infection.
He said all the nurse’s relatives and well-wishers who welcomed him home had also tested negative for the virus. The nurse will undergo another test before being discharged.
Ona said the nurse has not shown any flu-like symptoms typical of infection from the virus such as fever, cough and cold.
More than 20 people, many of them health care workers, have been reported infected with the MERS coronavirus in two distinct clusters – one in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – likely involving human-to-human transmission since early last week.
The disease, originally identified in 2012 in the Middle East, has also for the first time spread to the Far East, which grappled with an outbreak of the related SARS virus, which killed some 800 people in a global outbreak in 2003.