OFW from Abu Dhabi tests negative for Mers-Cov

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

MANILA -- The overseas Filipino worker (OFW) earlier tested positive of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Corona Virus (MERS-COV) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was found to be negative of the virus after he was re-tested by the Department of Health (DOH).

In a press conference in Manila Saturday, DOH Secretary Enrique Ona disclosed that upon the re-test conducted on the “Index Passenger” last Wednesday, the result of the nasopharyngeal tests netted a negative result.

“According to the findings of our Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), he tested negative,” said Ona.

He said that since the male Filipino nurse was asymptomatic, or showed no symptoms, upon his arrival last Tuesday afternoon, it is highly likely that he was able to defeat the self-limiting virus.

“He was tested positive of the virus before he left the Middle East. But upon arrival in the country, the virus is already gone. It is likely that he was able to overcome it. He only became a carrier but was not affected by it,” explained Ona.

Philippines Virus
Passengers walk past a thermal scanner at the medical quarantine area at the arrival section of Manila's International Airport in Paranaque, south of Manila, Philippines on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Philippine officials said a Filipino health worker who tested positive for the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus has arrived home from the United Arab Emirates. It’s the first known case of the deadly virus in the country. (AP Photo)

Last Wednesday, the DOH announced the country’s first case of MERS-COV when the OFW came home from the UAE, where he was tested positive by Abu Dhabi health authorities.

The OFW was tested following the contact tracing done by UAE officials to those who had made contact with the second Filipino fatality from MERS-COV that died last April 10.

But at the time when the results came out, the Index Passenger was already headed back to the Philippines for the Holy Week.

The OFW and members of his family, who went to fetch him at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), were all immediately placed on quarantine at a DOH-run hospital.

The re-test, according to DOH Undersecretary Ted Herbosa, was conducted as part of the standard operating procedure.

According to DOH Emerging Infectious Diseases Program Manager Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, the Index Passenger remains in quarantine as another test will be done to him, while his loved ones were already discharged.

“We want to be sure that he is really negative of the virus already before we discharge him. He understood and gave his full cooperation,” said Lee Suy.

Meanwhile, Ona announced that President Benigno Aquino III has instructed them to form a task force on the MERS-COV in order to prevent the further entry and spread of the disease in the country as well as to create heightened awareness among the public.

Its primary task, according to Ona, is to intensify the contact tracing efforts of the Index Passenger’s 414 co-passengers at the Etihad Airlines Flight EY0424.

“The MERS-COV is a communicable disease that may be passed on to others through exposure or close contact with a positive carrier. Hence, all those who travelled with our Index Passenger are still deemed to be at risk,” said Ona.

So far, of the 415 passengers on board EY0424, the DOH has already traced 119 with 72 having been tested already, of which 40 yielding negative results.

There were 45 foreign nationals on board the said flight but their nationalities were not disclosed.

Passengers of the said flight are now being urged by the DOH to submit themselves to testing in order to remove any worries on their part and rule out possibility of infecting others.

Upon contact, Ona said the task force will fetch them and be brought to the nearest DOH hospital, where their nasopharyngeal swabs will be taken for them to be sent either to the RITM in Muntinlupa City or the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City for laboratory testing.

The health chief assured passengers that the testing will be done for free as well as their stay in quarantine.

“MERS-COV is a communicable disease so it is important that we all work together to prevent the infection from spreading,” he said.

As for a travel advisory to and from Middle East countries being issued, the DOH said there is still no epidemic or outbreak of the MERS-COV, which is the one that calls for the imposition of travel restrictions.

“However, I have approved the issuance of a Bureau of Quarantine alert bulletin to those travelling from the Middle East and through our international airports so that those who may be affected by the MERS-Corona Virus will be given prompt assistance,” said Ona.

MERS-COV is a respiratory ailment caused by the corona virus and has symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, and diarrhea.

While first discovered in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in April 2012, MERS-COV has since registered cases in 12 other countries, mostly in the Middle East region. (HDT/Sunnex)

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