DOCTORS are monitoring a woman from North Cotabato who showed signs of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a health official said on Saturday.
Dr. Helen Yambao, Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) chief, refused to name the woman who worked in Jordan as a domestic helper and returned to the country on February 6.
“She has high fever and cough so she went to the rural health unit in North Cotabato,” Yambao told reporters. She also refused to name the girl’s hometown.
The woman was admitted to the CRMC Thursday.
Yambao said health workers have already taken sputum samples and throat swab samples and these were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City.
If the woman tested positive for MERS-CoV, health workers will have to track down the people she had close contact with like family members and rural health workers of the town she came from.
Last week, a 32-year-old woman who worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia tested positive for the deadly respiratory disease, becoming the country’s first MERS-CoV case.
Reports said her husband had also shown symptoms of the disease.
Health Secretary Janette Ga- rin said 11 of the 56 people who had close contact with the nurse will be subjected to a second round of testing.
A second screening is vital because if the patient tests positive, the necessary treatment can be given to control the transmission of the virus.
According to Garin, the 56 people were mostly medical workers and staff of the Evangelista Medical Specialty Hospital in San Pedro, Laguna where the nurse first sought medical attention on February 2.
The Department of Health (DOH) tracked down the 220 people who were on the same flight as the woman but only 92 have been located and have agreed to be tested.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said over the weekend that is not easy to be transferred from one person to another.
“The disease is very difficult to spread from one person to the next. It is a disease that you do need close contact for that virus to spread from one person to the next,” said Dr. Julie Hall, WHO country representative.
Hall added that even in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates where a large number of cases were reported, the spread to communities is very rare.
“So it is really is a disease that requires close contact with someone who is sick with it. Which is why the measures taking place in the hospitals are the most important,” Hall said.
She lauded the officials of the Evangelista Hospital for its cooperation, vigilance and willingness to close the hospital for two weeks to allow the WHO and DOH to disinfect the facility.
“That was a big sacrifice on their [Evangelista Hospital] part. But they agreed just to sow calmness on the part of the residence in the area and to ensure that there is no reason to panic,” DOH Acting Secretary Janette L. Garin said, adding that DOH is on top on the situation and doing its best in the control of any possible local transmission with close coordination with other agencies and local health units.
To allay fears of the public, DOH and WHO officials held community assemblies in San Pedro, Laguna to explain to residents that government is doing its best to contain the spread of the virus.
The hotlines of DOH for the testing are (02)7111001 and (02) 7111002.
Symptoms of the disease are fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. There is yet no cure for MERS-CoV.