The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday confirmed that two more Filipinos have contracted 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 the two Filipino nurses–both female and aged 29 and 32–are in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the hospital they are working for.
He could not release the name of the hospital at press time but said 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 aged 29, 32 and 50, and one male aged 55.
Two were assigned to the emergency room while the other two were working in the ICU section of the hospital.
Jose said he could not 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 symptoms of MERS-CoV.
The families of the Filipinos have already been informed by their employer, Jose said, and the embassy in Riyadh 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 on the country.
Even at the height of MERS-CoV cases there, Jose said, the department did not see the need to raise a travel advisory.
Instead, the Health department is reiterating a previous advisory to OFWs in Saudi Arabia “to follow closely the advisory by local health authorities.”
And for those working in hospital, 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)—who died from contracting the virus, which has spread in the Middle East, 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 is a strain of coronavirus that was first identified in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.
As of February 5 this year, WHO said at least 356 had died from the virus, while there have been 971 confirmed cases.