MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed Wednesday that it is currently treating a patient with MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus) admitted at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa.
“Three confirmatory testing which yielded positive result was done on the 32-year-old nurse who came from Saudi Arabia from Saudia Plight 860 last February 1,” said DOH Undersecretary Nemesio T. Gako during a briefing at the DOH Media Relations Unit (MRU) in Tayuman, Manila.
Gako, who relayed the statement of DOH Acting Secretary Janette Garin who is currently out of the country, said the patient, along with her husband who had the closest contact, are undergoing observation as part of the protocols on contact tracing.
Gako added that other family members will also be placed under observation to ensure that the virus will not spread. He assured that DOH health care facilities designed for emerging diseases are in place or ready to extend treatment.
“The patient is currently confined in a negative pressure room of RITM where she is being treated and subject for daily observation and monitoring,” DOH spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee-Suy added.
Dr. Lee Suy said the patient was asymptomatic and did not shown signs or symptoms of MERSCoV upon arrival. He said the thermal scanner at the airport did not detect any signs of fever that could manifest in a MERS-CoV patient.
Lee Suy added that a day after arrival at their residence, the patient (nurse) noticed she was exhibiting flu-like symptoms similar to MERSCoV so she immediately went for a check-up and treatment from a private hospital which then recommended her to undergo confirmatory test at RITM. On Feb. 10, test results revealed that she is positive with MERS-CoV.
The DOH assured the patient is being given the utmost care and currently under stable condition but will stay at the facility until such time that she will be declared negative from MERS-CoV.
He said the DOH is currently starting its contact tracing of other passengers from the Saudia 860 flight with around 225 passengers.
The agency is now appealing to other plane passengers to voluntarily seek consultation and testing if they notice exhibiting symptoms of MERSCoV.
“While we are saying that the possibility of other passengers on the plane being infected is low, still we recommend them to seek testing,” Lee Suy said.
Meanwhile, Gako said the testing will prioritize those passengers seated near the patient.
He said the testing will be conducted in RITM which is known for its capability in treating emerging infectious diseases.
Gako further appealed to the public to stay calm and refrain from panicking as he assured the readiness of the hospitals in treating MERSCoV cases.
During the briefing, World Health Organization (WHO) country representative Dr. Julie Hall said that they will be sending the patient’s sample to a WHO collaborating laboratory in Hong Kong for “additional confirmation,” which is part of the international protocol for MERS-CoV.
The first case of MERSCoV was recorded in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
Some of its common symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
It may take 14 days upon exposure to a patient with MERSCoV to develop the symptoms.