DUMAGUETE CITY -– The Department of Health (DOH) in Negros Oriental reported Monday that so far, none of the passengers that were on board the same flight to the Philippines that carried a Filipina nurse found positive of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona virus (MERS-Cov) has arrived in the province.
DOH provincial chief Dr. Socrates Villamor, however, said that two of the passengers on that international flight were confirmed to have gone to Cebu while another to Negros Occidental on the other side of this island. A third passenger was also reported to have gone to Bohol, a province also in the Central Visayas region and about 90 minutes by fast ferry to Dumaguete.
The DOH is still conducting contact tracing of all the passengers of that flight from Saudi Arabia to Manila last week after the World Health Organization tweeted confirmation of a healthcare professional from Riyadh who tested positive of the virus.
The 31-year-old female nurse had tested positive of MERS-Cov and returned to the Philippines in early February. The Department of Health continues to actively trace passengers on board the same flight the nurse took as well as those who had come into contact with her.
According to Dr. Villamor, it is still too early to tell whether Negros Oriental is “off the hook” already as he believes the list of airline passengers on that flight may not have been completed yet.
He cited as an example the two suspect cases of MERS-Cov cases in Negros Oriental in April 2014 where two persons were quarantined after being located.
The first one was immediately traced upon arrival in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental and placed in isolation while the second one, however, took several days before health authorities could reach her due to the delay in the release of the passenger manifesto, said Villamor.
Dr. Villamor has appealed to the public that those coming into contact with co-passengers of the female nurse, especially symptomatic passengers, to seek medical advice from a doctor or the nearest hospital.
Meanwhile, he assured that the Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital (NOPH) has an isolation area not just for suspect MERS-Cov cases but similar infectious diseases as well, such as ebola.
In fact, there is a plan for the NOPH to establish an isolation area separate from the hospital’s main building for this purpose.
The doctor also reiterated his advice to the public to observe precautionary measures such as regular hand washing and staying away from crowded places to avoid contagion.