A 36-year-olf male foreigner from the Middle East tested positive of the virus, a report said.
The patient, whose name and nationality were withheld, reportedly travelled from Saudi Arabia and passed by Dubai. The patient is now in isolation at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and is reportedly recovering.
MERS-CoV is a viral respiratory illness that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The virus quickly spread to several other countries and last May, there had been an outbreak in the said country – the largest known outbreak of MERS-CoV outside of the Arabian Peninsula.
The Filipina companion of the infected foreigner was reportedly cleared of the diseased. However, she was admitted to the RITM after developing a cough, one of the symptoms of MERS-CoV. The patient will still be under observation because the 14-day incubation period has not yet ended. DOH Spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said the incubation period will end on July 16. “Calculations started from the day the 36-year-old index patient started showing symptoms of the disease—fever and cough, in particular, on July 2,” the report read.
Health Secretary Janette Garin said they are now tracking down 200 passengers who are on board the plane with the foreigner. Twenty-one individuals confirmed to have had close contact with the MERS-CoV patient are not under home quarantine and close monitoring by the DOH. All of them are reportedly asymptomatic.
However, the health department reminded the public that there is no documented community transmission of MERS-CoV. “Health workers are usually at risk. Transmission also occurs via repeated and close contact with a family member or a household companion,” DOH said in a statement.
No travel ban
The DOH said the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend the imposition of any travel, trade, or screening restrictions related to MERS-CoV. However, they advised travellers, tourists or migrant workers, to maintain a high level of vigilance, especially those coming from MERS-CoV infected countries.
In its statement, WHO said, “given the lack of evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission in the community, WHO does not recommend travel or trade restrictions with regard to this event. Raising awareness about MERS-CoV among travellers to and from affected countries is good public health practice.”
They also encourage all member states to continue surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.
“Infection prevention and control measures are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS-CoV in health care facilities. It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because, like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERS-CoV are non-specific. Therefore, health-care workers should always apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis. Droplet precautions should be added to the standard precautions when providing care to patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection; contact precautions and eye protection should be added when caring for probable or confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection; airborne precautions should be applied when performing aerosol generating procedure.”
Keep it clean
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MERS-CoV, like other coronaviruses, is thought to spread from an infected person’s respiratory secretions, like through coughing. Once an infected person coughs and touches anything – the virus can be transmitted.
To prevent the spread or acquiring of the virus, DOH remind everyone to always:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Make sure to cover your nose and mouth with tissue paper when you cough or sneeze. Dispose used tissue paper properly.
- Avoid touching your face – especially the eye area, nose, and moth – with unwashed hands.
- As much as possible, avoid close contact with sick people.
- Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces such as door knobs, handles and the likes.
- Tell your children of these preventions so they too can be spared from the virus.
Although MERS-CoV usually spread in healthcare settings, such as hospitals, it is still important to take precautions even at home just be sure. CDC said researchers studying the virus have not seen any ongoing spreading of MERS-CoV in the community.
Symptoms of the virus are flu-like, meaning an infected person will experience fever, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and coughing. If you happen to know any person with these symptoms and have travelled in areas where there is a spread of MERS-CoV, you may call the DOH hotlines: 711-1001 and 711-1002.