Palace urges heightened vigilance vs MERS virus

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Malacanang on Wednesday said that the government
continues to track the passengers of the flight carrying the Filipino nurse initially diagnosed with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

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In a press conference, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Dpartemtn of Health (DOH) has contacted 325 of the flight’s 414 passengers and still trying to contact 43 passengers.

Of the 325 passengers, 252 have undergone nose and throat swabbing, and 221 of them have tested negative for MERS-CoV, he said, adding that the DOH is still awaiting the swab results of the other 31 passengers.

But despite the “high encouraging results,” Coloma called on the public to “remain vigilant, and to heed preventive measures and quarantine procedures of our health authorities.”

He said that travelers returning from the Middle East are advised to fill out the quarantine forms providing detailed contact information to facilitate subsequent tracing if needed.

He added that those who become ill within two weeks upon arrival are “strongly advised” to seek immediate medical attention and to delay visits to crowded places.

Last April 16, the DOH confirmed that an overseas Filipino worker who arrived in Manila on April 15 had MERS-CoV.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that the nurse came into contact with the Filipino paramedic who died of MERS-CoV in the United Arab Emirates.

While the unnamed nurse did not show symptoms of the illness, Ona said that he still has the virus and may infect other people.

The DOH said last week that the health worker underwent quarantine procedures.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the MERS Coronavirus is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness, the CDC said.

Those who were infected had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of these people died. The virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact.

The CDC also said that so far, all the cases have been linked to six countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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