DOH orders tighter screening of travelers amid 'mysterious disease' from China


Posted at Jan 05 2020 11:40 AM | Updated as of Jan 05 2020 05:30 PM

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MANILA -- (UPDATE) The Department of Health (DOH) on Sunday said it has ordered tighter screening of incoming travelers following reports of a "mysterious disease" from China.

The illness, similar to "viral pneumonia of unknown origin" has so far affected 44 persons in China, according to the DOH.

"I urge the public, especially those with history of travel from China, to seek immediate medical consult if experiencing any flu-like symptoms," Health Secretary Francisco Duque said. 

"Let us also embrace healthy lifestyles, practice proper hand hygiene, and observe cough etiquette to prevent transmission of respiratory infections."

The Bureau of Quarantine is on alert and is monitoring all ports for travelers manifesting fever or signs of respiratory infection, the DOH said.

"It’s like a regular feeling of heaviness, cough, cold, maybe a headache and a fever. It’s very similar to any kind of flu. However, this one there’s a clustering in this province in China and all of the people who had it, they did not test positive for any regular flu virus," Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo told ANC.

"So it’s something new and there’s this exposure to a certain market in China that they are now investigating."

Beijing has yet to record any fatality from the illness and any human-to-human transmission, Domingo said.

A flu shot would not help as the virus strain is still undiscovered and only proper hygiene could prevent a person from getting the disease, he added.

Chinese state media earlier said Beijing was investigating an outbreak of viral pneumonia following online speculation that it might be linked to SARS, the flu-like virus that killed hundreds of people a decade ago.

The virus, which infected more than 8,000 people around the world, is expected to have originated in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, according to the World Health Organization.

It had criticized China for under-reporting the number of SARS cases following the outbreak in 2003. -- With Agence France-Presse