Filipina nurse positive of MERS-CoV isolated at SPMC in Davao City

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DAVAO CITY: The Filipina nurse who tested positive of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and her husband were placed in the isolation facility of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) since Tuesday.

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This was confirmed by Dr. Ricardo Audan, SPMC Chief of Clinics.

Audan however, allayed fears of spreading the virus except when a person is in direct contact with the patient.

In an interview, Audan said the current condition of the 38-year-old nurse does not show MERS-CoV symptoms such as fever or colds.

But still, the nurse and her husband are under observation, he said.

Audan said sputum and blood specimens have been submitted for laboratory tests at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) Wednesday. The result of the tests will be out after two to three days. While waiting for the result, Audan said the couple is under observation and will stay at the isolation room.

Audan explained that on August 20 the nurse was suspected to have come into contact with a patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital she was working in Saudi Arabia. On August 24, she felt an influenza-like illness and diarrhea. Medical findings confirmed these are symptoms of the MERS-CoV.

A laboratory test was made on the nurse on August 25 in the same hospital. The nurse was discharged on August 26. On August 27, initial laboratory results showed she was negative of the virus. The nurse then traveled to the Philippines on August 28 on board Saudi Airlines flight which arrived on August 29. She went briefly to Bulacan to visit some relatives and on August 31, arrived in Banga, South Cotabato transiting through General Santos City airport via Cebu Pacific Airlines flight 997.

However, Audan said her friend in Dammam made an overseas call on September 1 to inform that her laboratory test showed she was positive of MERS CoV. The health authorities from Saudi also contacted the Department of Health (DOH) in Manila to relay that one of the Filipino nurses who traveled to the Philippines tested positive of the virus. It was at this instance that DOH traced the nurse and was located by DOH employees in South Cotabato.

Audan said the nurse and her husband were advised to get medical attention in Davao City, so they were brought to SPMC.

Audan stressed that they have also decided to admit her husband to undergo laboratory tests considering that MERS CoV can be transmitted through close contact. The couple claimed they have no children or other family members in Banga that they had close contacts when she arrived.

Audan said government is also tracing other passengers who had close contact with the nurse. Reports said an estimated 240 passengers aboard the same Saudi Airlines flight and Cebu Pacific Airlines are currently being contacted by DOH to get them tested.

DOH said Filipino travelers to the Middle East countries are advised to avoid contact with persons with influenza-like illness and should observe frequent hand washing.

Audan said if OFWs from Saudi become ill 14 days (incubation period) from arrival, they must immediately report to any accredited hospital and avoid crowded places until they are clear of the symptoms.

Diagnosis of the disease is made through serology, and if necessary, through DNA testing while treatment remains supportive. PNA

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