Still no MERS virus in PH, says DOH

By Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 19 2013 12:52 AM | Updated as of Sep 19 2013 08:52 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday that the country is still free from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) which killed a Filipina nurse in Saudi Arabia, the first Filipino to die from the virus.

Lyndon Lee Suy, DOH program manager for Emerging and Re-emerging Diseases, said the agency’s surveillance system for diseases has been activated and there is still no case of MERS-CoV in the country.

“We still don’t have a case here in the Philippines. We don’t even have suspect case. But this does not mean that we will never have one. So we must always keep our guard up,” Lee Suy told The STAR.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is caused by MERS-CoV, which was first detected among humans in April 2012. Nine countries have reported cases of human infection and all of them have connections with the Middle East.

“When the coronavirus was just starting, we made sure that our surveillance and response systems are in place. We don’t want to miss out even suspect cases,” Lee Suy said.

He also said the DOH has already identified hospitals capable of handling MERS-CoV cases.

The Bureau of Quarantine at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), meanwhile, is on heightened alert against entry of passengers infected with MERS-CoV.

Quarantine doctors at the NAIA said they have intensified their monitoring of incoming passengers, particularly those from Saudi Arabia.

Ramon Barlisan advised overseas Filipino workers from the Arabian peninsula to consult doctors if they would experience symptoms of MERS such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing within 10 days upon their arrival.

Doctors said MERS could be prevented by avoiding close contact with persons suspected to be infected, washing hands often, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and strengthening body resistance by getting plenty of sleep and eating nutritious food.

“These may appear trivial but hand-washing can really save you from a lot of illness. Although we still don’t have coronavirus here, it is better to observe precautionary measures,” Lee Suy said. – With Rudy Santos