The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed Monday that two more Filipinos have been infected with the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia, bringing the total number of infected Filipinos to four.
Citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said that the two Filipino nurses–both female aged 29 and 32–are in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital they are working for.
Jose could not release the name of the hospital as of press time, but confirmed that the two nurses contracted the disease through exposure because they handled MERS-CoV cases.
“But our embassy was assured by the management of the hospital that these Filipinos are being provided the best medical treatment available, and that the hospital is well equipped to handle MERS-CoV [cases],” Jose said.
In total, there are four confirmed MERS-CoV cases affecting Filipino nurses in the oil-rich kingdom, although Jose admitted there could be more because not all cases are being reported to the embassy.
The Saudi Arabia government would sometimes want to keep such cases under radar.
The four confirmed cases were all working in the same hospital–three females with ages ranging from 29 to 50, and one 55-year-old male.
Two were assigned in the emergency room, while the other two were working in the ICU section of the hospital.
Jose said he could not, however, say if there are other cases of employees contracting the virus in that hospital.
Aside from the two latest cases in ICU, which are “probably” in a more advanced stage, the other two are in isolation and under observation, respectively.
The one under observation barely exhibited any symptom of MERS-CoV.
The employer has already informed the families of the Filipinos, Jose said, and the embassy there is closely monitoring the cases to ensure “that they are getting proper treatment.”
Although “it may take some time,” Jose believed the Filipinos could recover from the disease “as long as they are given immediate treatment and right treatment.”
Once the Filipinos recover from the virus, the decision to stay in the kingdom will be an arrangement between the employer and employee, Jose said.
For now, the department is not imposing a travel ban to the country.
Even during the height of MERS-CoV cases in Saudi Arabia, Jose said the department did not see the need to raise a travel advisory.
Instead, they are reiterating the previous advisory to OFWs in Saudi Arabia “to follow closely the advisory by local health authorities.”
And for those working in hospitals, Jose said they must “strictly follow prevention [guidelines]of the hospital [they are working for].”
Since 2013, there were a total of 10 Filipinos–eight from Saudi Arabia and two from the United Arab of Emirates (UAE)–have died from contracting the virus, which has spread in the Middle East region, particularly in Saudi Arabia.
According to the World health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause a range of illnesses in humans, ranging from the common cold to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The MERS-CoV, which is a strain of coronavirus, was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.
As of February 5, WHO reported 971 laboratory-confirmed cases of infections, 356 of which resulted in death, worldwide.
BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON