DOH says PHL MERSCOV-free despite arrival of Filipina detected with virus

September 4, 2014 7:00 am 

By Sweetie dela Torre

MANILA, Sept. 3 (PNA) — The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday reported that a Filipina nurse was found positive with MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) after arriving in the country from Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last August 29.

"As of today, despite the fact that dalawa na itong nakalusot na nurses (two nurses were able to enter the country), now we can still claim that the Philippines is MERS-CoV free," Ona said in a press briefing.

Ona said that the two Filipina nurses arrived in the country from Dammam, Saudi Arabia via Saudia Airlines (Flight no. SVH70, carrying 249 passengers). Both were asymptomatic at the time of their entry.

"Both of them [are] working in the same hospital. They were tested because someone in the hospital where they work in had the MERS Coronavirus)," Ona said.

Prior to going back to the Philippines, as a precautionary procedure, a health check was conducted on them in Saudi Arabia. The result later showed that one of them was positive of the virus.

The one found positive of the virus was a 37-year-old Filipina nurse from General Santos City, who was located Tuesday in South Cotabato and was already admitted at the Southern Philippines Medical Center.

“Her specimen was sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for further testing and confirmation. Results of the test are expected late Wednesday, Ona said.

Ona said that before going back to the province, the nurse first stayed with the other nurse's family in Bulacan from August 29 to August 30 until her flight to her home last August 31 to General Santos via Cebu Pacific (Flight no. SJ-997 carrying 143 passengers).

“The good news, the nurse (from Bulacan) and the family turn out to be negative,” Ona said.

The nurse from Bulacan was fetched by 10 relatives, including two grandchildren. On September 2, the nurse and her two grandchildren developed fever which later tested negative for the disease conducted at the Lung Center of the Philippines.

Ona said that the nurse from Bulacan was told by her supervisor from Saudi Arabia that the test conducted on them on MERS-CoV found her negative while the other nurse from General Santos was positive of the virus.

This prompted the nurse from Bulacan to seek the assistance of the DOH and gave information on her companion’s whereabouts. Her friend was traced in South Cotabato and was admitted at the Southern Philippines Medical Center for further testing and confirmation.

The DOH stressed the government is exerting all effort to locate all passengers on board the Saudia Airlines, including the domestic flight to General Santos City.

The DOH is appealing to the passengers of the two flights to call the DOH Hotline 652-7800 local 2006 and 2207; (Smart) 0920-9498419; (Globe) 0915-7725621; and (Sun) 0922-8841564.(PNA)

LAM/SDT

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