3 more linked to Saudi tested for MERS
THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DOH) on Monday said three more persons who had close contact with a suspected MERS-infected Saudi national who died last week had been admitted to the hospital for showing symptoms of the virus.
The three had been screened for the MERS virus but the results of the laboratory tests had yet to be released, Health Secretary Janette Garin said in a text message to the Inquirer Monday.
“A total of 101 contacts have been traced. Fifteen are symptomatic but only five are being closely monitored,” said Garin.
Initially, only 12 people—mostly hotel and hospital staff—were confined at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City and San Lazaro Hospital in Manila for being symptomatic.
Their initial tests were negative but they will have to undergo a second round of screening. They will be confined at the two hospitals until the end of the 14-day incubation period on Oct. 13.
These were the people, out of 93 contacts originally traced, who had been in contact with the 63-year-old Saudi national before he died while visiting the Philippines on Sept. 29.
The tourist from Jeddah arrived in Manila for a three-week vacation on Sept. 17 and got sick on Sept. 26, developing a cough, high fever and chills. On Sept. 28, he was brought to a private hospital by hotel staff and medical personnel. He died the next day.
But the DOH could not yet officially declare him to be the country’s first MERS death due to the lack of tests that would confirm MERS infection.
Garin met with the World Health Organization Monday to determine whether the patient could be considered the country’s first MERS death. “We have not reached a resolution yet. We are still closing the gaps on information,” said Garin.
On Saturday, the DOH was still looking for four people who had frequent contact with the tourist, including his hired driver. But Garin on Monday said all had been accounted for.
In a separate interview, DOH spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said the driver had been located and tested for MERS. The driver was not showing signs of illness, said Lee Suy.
Lee Suy urged Filipino pilgrims returning from Mecca to cooperate with health authorities and fill out honestly and completely the health declaration form given at airports.
“We appeal to our Muslim brothers who attended the hajj to cooperate with us. While the process is tedious, we are doing this to make sure Filipinos are safe and protected against MERS,” said Lee Suy.
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