MANILA - There is no reason to panic over the latest case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the country, acting Health Secretary Janette Garin said on Friday.
In a press briefing this morning, Garin assured that the Department of Health (DOH) is not letting its guard down in the fight against MERS-CoV.
She said all ports of entry in the country are being closely watched by authorities.
"While MERS-CoV has a mortality of 30%, human-to-human transmission is not that easy. Hence, there is no reason to panic," she said.
"However, we have to be on guard and be vigilant in watching out for flu-like and asthma-like symptoms among travelers coming from the Middle East region."
A Filipina nurse who arrived from Saudi Arabia on February 1 has tested positive for MERS-CoV, a respiratory disease that has infected and killed hundreds, mostly in Saudi Arabia.
The Filipina was admitted to the Evangelista Medical Specialty Center in San Pedro, Laguna on February 2 after complaining of fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
She was later transferred to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) after her condition did not improve. Further tests confirmed that she has MERS-CoV.
According to Garin, the patient, who is four to five weeks pregnant, is in stable condition and is being closely monitored by health workers.
"For her to be declared MERS-CoV free, she should have at least 3 tests, [taken] 2 days apart, na negatibo," she said.
11 SHOW SYMPTOMS
Of the 56 people who have have come in contact with the Filipina nurse, Garin said 11 manifested symptoms of the disease. They were admitted to RITM on February 10 and 11.
Three of the 56 are family contacts while the others are from the hospital where the nurse was admitted.
Garin said the 11 symptomatic patients, which includes the husband of the nurse, will have to undergo an additional round of tests before they can be declared negative for MERS-CoV.
"Yung MERS-CoV kasi nakatira siya sa lungs, it's deep down there. So para maging talagang sure tayo na negatibo, dapat kunin yung plema at yun ang tingnan, which is another test that we are currently conducting. At the same time, kailangan din yung rectal swab at yung pag-examine ng dugo," she said.
"Hindi ibig sabihin na may sintomas ka ay may MERS-CoV ka na. Panahon po ngayon ng flu, medyo maginaw-ginaw ngayong panahon na ito. Kaya pwede ng flu lang siya talaga o talagang may asthma lang yung pasyente na na-exacerbate ng pagbabago ng panahon," she explained.
Of the 220 passengers of the Saudi Airlines Flight 860, the acting health secretary said 92 have already been located and have agreed to be tested.
Garin called on the remaining passengers to contact the DOH through the agency's hotlines: 711-1001 or 711-1002.
She also appealed to returning Filipinos to honestly fill out the health declaration checklist upon arrival.
"We strongly suggest that the health declaration checklist or the yellow paper being given to passengers be properly and honestly filled up by all arriving passengers to prevent the entry of MERS-CoV and other infectious diseases in the country," she said.
Meanwhile, the mayor of San Pedro, Laguna appealed to residents not to disseminate wrong information.
Some parents reportedly prevented their children from going to Pacita Elementary School on Thursday amid fears of the disease. Many were also spotted wearing face masks following the news of the MERS-CoV case.
"Nanawagan po kami sa lahat, lalo na po sa aming mga kababayan sa San Pedro, na huwag pong matakot at huwag magkalat ng maling balita na hahantong po lalo sa takot at panic," Mayor Lourdes Cataquiz said.
"It's business as usual po sa San Pedro," she added. "Lahat naman po ay contained sa tulong ng DOH."