• Filipino nurse, 40 other plane passengers negative for MERS

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    THE FILIPINO nurse initially diagnosed with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus was found negative for the virus after being tested twice, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Saturday.

    Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the man, who was not identified, exhibited no symptoms of the disease.

    The nurse’s wife, two children and helper who were also quarantined also tested negative. So did the 40 persons who were on the same plane as the nurse.

    Ona said that by “negative, it meant that the Index Patient was “able to overcome the virus” after it was detected in his body.

    “We consider him (Index Patient) a carrier. He was not sick at all, got infected but he had no symptoms,” he explained.

    However, out of the 415 passengers on Etihad Airways Flight EY 0424, the DOH was able to track down only 119, and 72 were tested.

    The DOH is still waiting for the results of the tests of the other passengers.

    Ona noted that there is no MERS epidemic in the Philippines or the Middle East where the virus is believed to have originated.

    However, the government urged Filipinos coming home from the Middle East to have themselves checked in a hospital if they have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cold, cough, or sneezing.

    The DOH said MERS-CoV may be passed on to others through exposure or close contact with a positive carrier.

    The government said cases of MERS can be reported to hotlines 711-1001 to 02, 0922-8841564, 0920-9498419 and 0915-7725621.

    “It is important that families, friends and members of their local communities fully understand all that must be known about the MERS coronavirus,” Ona told reporters on Saturday.

    The male nurse who tested positive for the MERS virus in the United Arab Emirates returned to the Philippines on Tuesday.

    The man was later tracked down and quarantined, along with relatives who picked him up at the airport, as part of the increased monitoring procedures.

    Health authorities were continuing to track the rest of the 418 passengers on the same Etihad Airways flight, including 45 foreigners, so they could also be tested, Ona added.

    The virus has a two-week incubation period, so all those passengers “are still deemed to be at risk”, the Health chief said.

    Lyndon Leesuy, the DOH’s program manager for emerging diseases, said all air travellers who exhibit symptoms at Philippine airports will be required to undergo testing for the virus as part of the “active surveillance” status.

    The MERS virus is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd has ordered the DOH to “create a heightened awareness among our people and prevent the spread of this communicable disease”, Ona said.

    He said the male nurse will soon be discharged from quarantine. His family members and relatives who have been tested have already been discharged.

    AFP and PNA

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