MANILA (1st UPDATE) - New tests on a Filipino nurse who returned to the Philippines last Tuesday from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are negative for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV).
In a press conference on Saturday, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that the overseas Filipino worker (OFW), the Philippines' "index" case, initially tested positive for MERS-CoV when he was in Al Ain City in Abu Dhabi.
However, based on 2 news tests by the Philippines' Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the OFW's results were negative for MERS-CoV.
Ona said the nurse can now be discharged after being quarantined for 4 days.
The OFW was exposed to the Filipino who died of MERS-CoV in the UAE.
"Since ten days had lapsed from the reported testing date at the UAE, our task force right away got in touch with him and decided to perform a test on him, and fortunately, as well for the comfort of everybody, the findings of our Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, he tested negative," he said.
Ona explained that although the OFW initially tested positive for MERS-CoV, he was able to overcome the virus.
"Merong virus noong ginawa 'yung test sa Middle East. Subalit pagdating dito, wala na. Ibig sabihin, he was able to overcome [the virus]. Ibig sabihin nu'n, he was not sick at all, na-contaminate lang siya," he said.
Ona added that out of the more than 400 passengers who traveled with the index passenger aboard Ethiad Airways Flight EY 0424, they have been able to contact 119.
Of the 72 passengers who have so far been contacted and tested, 40 yielded negative results, the DOH said.
Ona added that the relatives and well-wishers of the Filipino nurse who fetched him at the airport have also been discharged from the hospital after their tests showed negative results.
While the health department is "greatly encouraged" by the negative results, Ona still urged all the other passengers of EY 0424 to undergo testing and rule out possible infection of MERS-CoV.
Ona also urged OFWs from the Middle East who experience MERS-CoV symptoms to see doctors in the nearest hospital.
Meanwhile, Ona said there is no epidemic or outbreak of MERS-CoV in the Middle East or in the Arabian Peninsula.
"That is why the World Health Organization, has not imposed restrictions in travel to and from the Middle East," he added.
However, Ona said that upon President Aquino's instruction, the DOH has set up Task Force MERS-CoV to inform people about the virus.
He said the DOH has asked the Bureau of Quarantine to be on heightened alert for persons coming from the Middle East who have symptoms of MERS-CoV which are similar to flu, such as fever, cough or cold.
The World Health Organisation said last Friday that it had been told of 212 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection worldwide, of which 88 had proved fatal.
The MERS virus is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.