MANILA — The Philippines is investigating 11 potential cases of a respiratory virus that has infected thousands in China, the Department of Health said Monday.
Authorities were still waiting for the laboratory results of the 11 people "under investigation", who were all from the Chinese central city of Wuhan, the "epicenter" of the new coronavirus, said DOH Secretary Francisco Duque.
Four others, including a 5-year-old boy in Cebu City, tested negative for the pathogen, he said.
Authorities "automatically" probe travelers if they are from Wuhan, arrive in the country with flu and fever symptoms, had visited a market where the virus was first detected, and interacted with live animals and patients in China, Duque told radio DZMM.
Those under investigation are quarantined and their samples are sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, he added.
The new coronavirus has infected over 2,700 people in China, left 80 dead, and was confirmed in around a dozen countries including as far away as the US, authorities said Monday.
Beijing locked down Hubei province, where the pathogen originated, to slow its transmission.
The previously unknown contagion has caused global concern because of its similarity to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Duque urged the public to wash their hands frequently, hydrate well, and use face masks.
The Philippines and China do not have a labor agreement for Wuhan, which means that Filipinos reportedly working in Wuhan are undocumented, said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello.
All labor attaches send updates about the virus and Filipino migrant workers every 12 hours, he said.
Authorities, he said, were also monitoring a Filipino household worker in Hong Kong who was reportedly quarantined at a hospital after being exposed to her employer's 2 guests who tested positive for the new coronavirus.