A Saudi national suspected of carrying the MERS virus (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus) has died while visiting the country, the health department said on Saturday.
In a press briefing, Health Secretary Janette Garin said that while there were signs and symptoms of MERS-CoV that was observed in the patient prior to his hospitalization and subsequent death, such “cannot be directly link” to MERS-CoV.
“We are considering the case as “probable cause” of MERS-CoV,” said Garin.
The patient, who had a cough, fever and occasional chills, died in an undisclosed hospital last Tuesday after a two-day confinement.
The patient’s X-ray results also “suggested” MERS infection, Garin said, without providing additional details.
Ninety-three of the 97 people who had close contact with him were traced.
These people are those that are located in the hotel were the patient checked-in, those in the private hospital where the patient was admitted and those in the funeral parlor.
Eighty-one of those located were advised to be home-quarantine while 12 people were admitted and monitored through laboratory tests upon displaying signs and symptoms of MERS-CoV.
So far, on the sputum samples test, the patients yielded negative.
However, the DOH will still conduct more tests to ensure that the said patients will be MERS-CoV free in case they will exhibit positive results in the succeeding tests until the 14-day incubation period is not yet over.
“We urge the public to be vigilant to make sure that MERS-CoV has a limited presence in our country,” she said.
“What is important is to report to the nearest hospital if you experience flu-like symptoms and a history of travel to the Arabian Peninsula or possible exposure to a MERS-CoV infected patient.”
Records show the Arab man arrived in the country on September 17 from Jeddah.
Those who had close contact with the victim were not traced because during that time suspicion for MERS-CoV is not necessary as the patient’s condition then is not displaying any signs or symptoms of MERS-CoV.
On September 26, the man started to display the signs and symptoms of MERS-CoV such cough, high fever, and occasional chills.
He was admitted in an undisclosed private hospital on Sept. 28.
Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated and was pronounced dead on September 29.
Aside from displaying signs and symptoms of MERS-CoV, X-ray results of the patient was also suspected as MERS-CoV but then no confirmatory test was conducted as there were no samples of sputum that was taken from the patient and subjected them to a confirmatory test for MERS-CoV.
In addition, the patient failed to recover due to myocardial or heart infection.
Garin described the case as an “extraordinary one” and said that they will discussed further with the World Health Organization (WHO) in terms of the classification of the cause of death since there is an absence of confirmatory tests for sputum due to the death of the victim and the body was already “formalinized” or had formalin.
The health chief added that if a body is already filled with formalin, substance samples of sputum cannot be taken for testing.
She added that they are coordinating the matter both to WHO and Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Before the new suspected case, the Philippines this year confirmed two MERS cases: a 36-year-old man from the Middle East, whose nationality was not disclosed, and a Filipina nurse who returned to the country from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia recently reported a surge in MERS infections with 19 deaths last August, ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage.
A total of 536 people have died of MERS in the kingdom since it first appeared in 2012, according to data from the Saudi health ministry’s website as of Friday.