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3 Filipino female nurses have MERS virus

MANILA, Philippines—Three Filipino nurses working in different hospitals in Saudi Arabia have tested positive for the dreaded Middle East respiratory syndrome-coronavirus (MERS-CoV), prompting Philippine officials to renew calls for Filipino workers to strictly follow health protocols.

Speaking at a news briefing on Friday afternoon, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose confirmed that the three nurses—all women—were exposed to MERS-CoV patients in the course of their work and are in the early stage of the infection.

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“Our embassy in Riyadh confirmed that three Filipinos are infected with MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia. We are getting in touch with the next of kin to inform them of any developments,” Jose said.

Those infected are a 56-year-old nurse assigned at a hospital emergency room, a respiratory technician and a nurse assigned at a hospital oncology section.

All three have been placed under isolation while undergoing medical treatment at the respective hospitals where they are employed.

The Department of Health has announced that it will send a medical team to the Middle East to monitor the condition of the three nurses.

“Our team will be leaving anytime. Basically, it is an assistance required by the Department of Foreign Affairs to assess the situation there, so we can also prepare,” said Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin.

Since 2013, a total of 10 Filipinos—eight from Saudi Arabia and two from the United Arab Emirates—have died after contracting the virus, which is prevalent in the Middle East region.

“What’s important is that they are being taken care of. What we are doing now is informing our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) about ways to prevent the virus and where they can go to seek consultation,” said Garin.

Jose assured the public that the Filipino health workers remain safe in Saudi Arabia as hospitals accredited to take in MERS-CoV patients there have earlier instituted infection prevention protocols to make sure health personnel would not contract the virus while treating patients.

“Let’s allow the Saudi government to make the initial investigation into this. We encourage our Filipino workers there, especially those in the hospitals, to strictly follow these protocols,” he said.

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Jose said OFWs planning to go back to the Philippines must undergo the necessary medical checkups to prevent the virus from reaching the Philippines.

Those infected with MERS-CoV develop severe acute respiratory illness, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, pneumonia and kidney failure.

First reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, MERS-CoV belongs to the family of coronaviruses which includes the common cold and severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS. The virus has since infected more than 800 people and killed over 300 in Saudi Arabia, according to the World Health Organization.

The first MERS-CoV case in the Philippines is a 32-year-old female nurse who arrived from Saudi Arabia last month.

The nurse was able to recover from the virus and had been discharged from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine after undergoing a 10-day quarantine. With a report from AP

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TAGS: Charles Jose, Department of Foreign Affairs, DFA, MERS Virus, MERS-CoV, MERS-CoV patients
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