MANILA - Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) may enter the Philippines due to the large population of Filipinos working in the Middle East.
In an interview with ANC on Monday, Ona said: “It’s always a possibility it [MERS] will come in. That’s why we’re monitoring the passengers coming into the country. We’re cognizant of that fact.”
He said thermal body scans are in place in airports for screening of passengers. “There, we will be able to identify, observe, and rule out [the illness].”
Due to ease of travel, Ona said there is already an understanding and protocol among nations to report health cases and conduct early diagnosis "so there should be no extra worry.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed on Monday that an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) died in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after contracting MERS-CoV.
In a press conference, DFA Spokesman Charles Jose said 5 more Filipinos have been quarantined as a precautionary measure. He said, however, that the five “are doing well and recovering.”
Ona said he received conflicting reports on the Filipino who died. One report said he was a storekeeper, another said he was a health worker.
He said MERS-CoV can be directly contracted from others with the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified the symptoms of MERS-CoV, which include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and even diarrhea.
Human cases of MERS-CoV have also been reported in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Oman.
Ona suggested assigning “health attaches” abroad where there are large numbers of Filipino workers.
“The health attaches are needed so that we can give the necessary health support to our workers,” he said.
In the UAE alone, there are around 500,000 Filipinos working there.