DOH clears all 414 Etihad passengers of MERS

By Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 06 2014 02:36 AM | Updated as of May 06 2014 10:36 AM

MANILA, Philippines - After almost three weeks, the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday cleared all the 414 passengers of Etihad Airlines Flight 0424 of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said 401 of the 414 passengers have been tested and were negative for the virus.

According to DOH program manager for Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases Lyndon Lee Suy, 13 of the passengers have not been contacted by the DOH.

Four of them were foreigners who already left the country while the nine others gave incomplete contact details.

“We went to the addresses, and contacted the numbers, but we faced a dead end. We could not really reach them, despite the best effort,” Lee Suy added.

Lee Suy claimed that since the 14-day incubation period for the disease was long over without anyone being reported from the Etihad flight to be ailing with MERS-CoV symptoms, all the passengers are presumed to have not been infected.

“We are done with the 14 days incubation period, which was a critical time frame to observe possible cases. If there were cases that would come out, we expected them to come out during these 14 days of incubation period,” he said.

Lee Suy added that if anyone had contracted the virus, they would have manifested signs and symptoms by April 28.

“Today is already May 5, so 21st day already. If indeed these nine passengers showed signs and symptoms, they must have seen or consulted with medical professionals or doctors. But as you may have seen, transmission was really low,” he maintained.

“There is now one case in America and, so far, we are still very lucky. Despite the fact that many overseas Filipino workers are coming home on a daily basis, we are still free of MERS and we are very happy with that,” he noted.

The flight arrived in the country with a Filipino nurse who tested postive for MERS-CoV in the United Arab Emirates.

The nurse eventually overcame the virus and turned negative when examined twice by the DOH.

But despite this, the department tracked down his 413 co-passengers to determine whether or not they got infected.

Rennan Cimafranca, chief of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the DOH in Cebu, said laboratory test on another Etihad Airline passenger showed negative results of MERS-CoV.

Cimafranca said the passenger, whose name was withheld, was released from hospital last Saturday.

He said Cebu and the entire Region 7 remain Mers-Cov free as of yesterday.

Meanwhile, another nurse from Negros Occidental was placed under quarantine in a Saudi Arabia hospital for testing and monitoring after she was suspected of contacting MERS-CoV.

Her husband told Bombo Radyo Bacolod over the weekend that his wife is currently confined in the intensive care unit (ICU) in a hospital in Riyadh, where she is working. Bombo Radyo withheld the identities of the nurse and her husband.

The husband is optimistic that his wife will test negative for the viral infection. – With Danny Dangcalan, Jean Demecillo/Freeman