Public told: Take note of Mers-CoV’s incubation period

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Friday, April 25, 2014

MANILA -- A suspected carrier of the dreaded Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (Mers-CoV) can finally take a breather if signs and symptoms do not show after 14 days of supposed exposure with the virus.

In an interview with Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, Department of Health (DOH) program manager on Emerging Infectious Diseases and Spokesperson for MERS-CoV, said that the virus has a three- to 14-day incubation period.

Dr. Suy said this means that beyond 14 days without any signs and symptoms of the disease, a suspected carrier is considered already non-infective or did not acquire the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated on its website that patients can shed the virus after resolution of symptoms but also noted that the duration of infectivity is unknown.

It also states that patients are not contagious during the incubation period and that asymptomatic (without obvious symptoms) cases might not be contagious.

There has been no clear guidelines on the evaluation of Mers-CoV cases to date, but the WHO has recommended increased efforts to raise awareness, especially those travelling to or from Mers-affected countries.

So far, WHO has not advised special screening at points of entry nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.

As for the DOH screening process, suspected carriers of Mers-CoV are immediately quarantined and given the nose-throat-swab test.

Tests showing negative results or without signs or symptoms of Mers-CoV would allow the suspected carrier discharge from quarantine. However, negative results with symptoms of Mers-CoV could warrant hospital admission.

Dr. Suy said that for now, the DOH would prioritize screening for passengers on Etihad Airways Flight EY 0424 that landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from Abu Dhabi last April 15. However, passengers on a different flight number also coming from the Middle East may also avail themselves of the tests.

One swab test alone costs about P5,000, Dr. Suy said, noting that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is developing screening packages for non-EY 0424 passengers.

At present, the DOH continues to trace all passengers on Etihad Flight EY0424, the same flight taken by the returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from Abu Dhabi who was initially tested positive for Mers-CoV while still in the United Arab Emirates.

The returning OFW was later tested negative 11 days after being exposed to the virus in a hospital where he worked in Abu Dhabi through a Filipino patient who died there due to Mers-CoV. (PNA)

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