Final 4 remain in MERS-CoV hunt

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

THE Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday said that only four of the 414 people remain in their ongoing hunt for the co-passengers of the first Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Corona Virus (MERS-COV) case in the country on board Etihad Airlines Flight EY0424 that arrived last week.

Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, DOH Emerging Infectious Diseases program manager, said that as of 8 a.m., only four passengers have yet to be found and contacted by the DOH Task Force MERS-CoV.

Meanwhile, a total of 356 have already been contacted, either voluntary or after being found by the government, with 315 already having undergone testing.

DOH data show 275 of the passengers were all tested negative of the virus already while others are still awaiting the results.

And although there remains no positive case, Lee Suy said Filipinos must remain vigilant against the possible entry of the MERS-CoV disease.

"The threat of MERS-CoV does not end here. We have thousands of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) coming home every day. We have to be vigilant always," said Lee Suy in an interview with reporters.

The health official urged the public to practice proper hand hygiene always, by washing their hands with soap or hand rubs with alcohol before and after eating; before and after handling, cooking and preparing food; after coughing, sneezing and using the toilets; and before and before and after touching animals; as well as practice proper cough etiquette by covering their mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing, using a facial tissue when coughing or sneezing and cover their mouth and nose with it.

On the other hand, Lee Suy said they are hoping that medical facilities throughout the country would be cautious in releasing information that there is already a positive case of MERS-CoV in the country.

He said the DOH is concerned that any such incidents would cause undue alarm and panic from the public.

"We hope they will be cautious enough in coming up with such announcements since we don't want to initiate panic," said the official.

As of now, Lee Suy said the only confirmation of a MERS-CoV case is being done by the DOH, through the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

"I want to tell you that results will only come from DOH. Because all the tests for the 414 passengers are being done by DOH," said Lee Suy.

Since last week, there have been several reported suspected cases of MERS-CoV from different regions being brought in various medical facilities.

Meanwhile, the DOH said that at least P2 million have already been spent by the government in shouldering the ongoing tests for the passengers of Flight EY0424.

This is based on the testing rate of P5,000 for every passenger, Lee Suy said.

He said this does not yet include the costs of transportation of the test tubes as well as the passengers to be tested, expenditures during quarantine, as well as the communication expenses in tracing all of them.

Lee Suy said that such expenses are negligible considering the economic costs that may be incurred if there will be a positive case of MERS-CoV in the country.

"If this (threat) is not controlled, we may have a bigger problem, even from the economic point of view. Imagine in schools, children will be absent and they will be taken care of by their parents, who in turn, cannot go to work and will not earn anything. So there is a real bigger problem threatening if we don’t do this," Lee Suy said. (HDT/Sunnex)

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