Gov't fails to contact all 414 Etihad passengers for MERS-CoV testing

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

AFTER more than a week, the concerned government agencies were yet to complete the tracking and testing for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) of all the more than 400 passengers of Etihad Airways flight EY0424 that arrived in Manila on April 15.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that as of Wednesday, there were still 43 passengers out of 414 who were yet to be contacted.

Three hundred twenty five passengers or almost 80 percent have been contacted, while 46 passengers are still undergoing contact tracing, he said.

"Out of the 325 passengers, 252 have undergone nose and throat swabbing, with 221 passengers having tested negative. We are still awaiting the swab results of the 31 other passengers," Coloma said.

Despite these highly encouraging results, the Palace official asked for greater public vigilance, advising the people to heed preventive measures and quarantine procedures issued by health authorities.

"Travelers returning from the Middle East are advised to fill out the quarantine forms providing detailed contact information to facilitate subsequent tracing if needed," Coloma said.

Health authorities said those who become ill within two weeks upon arrival are strongly advised to seek immediate medical attention from all public hospitals or any Department of Health (DOH)-accredited medical facilities. They are also asked to delay visits to crowded places.

Last April 16, the DOH confirmed that an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who arrived in Manila on April 15 had MERS-CoV.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona confirmed that the nurse came into contact with the Filipino paramedic who died of MERS-CoV in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While the unnamed nurse did not show symptoms of the illness, Ona said he still has the virus and may infect other people.

The DOH said last week that the health worker underwent quarantine procedures.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the MERS Coronavirus is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

Most people who have been confirmed to have MERS-CoV infection developed severe acute respiratory illness, the CDC said.

Those who were infected had fever, cough, and shortness of breath. About half of these people died. The virus has spread from ill people to others through close contact.

The CDC also said that so far, all the cases have been linked to six countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. (SDR/Sunnex)

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