MANILA - Health Secretary Enrique Ona on Monday said he expects all passengers of Etihad Airways flight EY 0424 to test negative for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
Ona made this conclusion based on the fact that the Filipino nurse from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and his family have tested negative for the virus.
The nurse initially tested positive for the virus but subsequent tests yielded negative results.
Ona, however, said the government will remain vigilant in tracking down all the other passengers.
''I expect all of them to be negative because the patient and the family that accompanied him - there are 5 of them - are all negative. However, this should not lower our determination to get in touch with the rest of the passengers. Remember they were on a 9-hour flight,'' Ona told ANC's Headstart.
So far, 173 of the 414 passengers have been contacted by health authorities. Of the 173, 100 have been tested and yielded negative results.
Ona said it takes at least 12 hours from the time of testing to get the results.
Meanwhile, Ona apologized for the handling of the contact-tracing, testing and quarantine by the Philippine National Police and the Department of Health.
This was after ANC received complaints from some passengers who said they were treated like criminals, with police and health personnel with masks, knocking on their doors at the crack of dawn.
Ona said the purpose of such measures might have been misunderstood.
''I'd like to publicly apologize if that happened. The information may have been misunderstood in sum. The idea essentially is just to inform the patient first that he may have been in contact with a person who was found to be coronavirus positive in the UAE... and that we are essentially doing this as a precautionary measure to protect him, and all that will be done is for him to have the nose and throat examination,'' he said.
''This is a very simple swab. However, we also require him to be isolated and since isolation means control, they stay in the room, we prefer that they really go to the hospital, but only for the period while the test is being processed."
HEALTH INFO SHEET
To help prevent the spread of the virus, all passengers coming from the Arabian Peninsula will now be required to fill out a health information sheet to determine if they had contact with a person infected with MERS-CoV.
Ona said the symptoms of MERS-CoV are similar to those of a flu, but an infected patient will subsequently experience difficulty breathing.
''The initial phase is very similar to a flu, but after a day or two, it becomes severe just like a pneumonia, severe coughing, a lot of secretions and difficulty in breathing. You should right away go to a hospital,'' he said.
Ona added the DOH is in close coordination with the communicable disease center in Atlanta, Georgia to make sure emerging global diseases are being monitored. - ANC