DOH: 11 more Etihad passengers from Regions 12 and 9 free of MERS-CoV

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 April) — Six more passengers from Region 12 of Etihad Airways flight EY 0424 have tested negative for the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV).

Dr. Teogenes Baluma, Department of Health (DOH) Region 12 director, said Friday such development was based on the test results released as of Thursday by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine based in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.

On Wednesday, two Etihad passengers from this city were initially found negative of the virus and immediately released from quarantine at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.

A report released by DOH Region 12’s epidemiology and surveillance unit (RESU) showed that 11 of the listed 415 passengers of Etihad flight EY 0424 had been traced as either residents of the region or proceeded to visit the area.

Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong,
Kidapawan and Cotabato.

“So far, eight of them have tested negative of MERS-CoV and their quarantine was already lifted,” Baluma said in a radio interview.

He said they were still waiting for the results of the tests on three more passengers, who are all returning overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

One of them is still confined at the municipal hospital of Kiamba town in Sarangani while the two others are being quarantined at their homes in Polomolok town in South Cotabato and Pikit in North Cotabato, he said.

“We remain on high alert and continually monitoring for possible MERS-CoV cases since there are a number of returning OFWs from the Middle East who are coming in at our airports on a daily basis,”
Baluma said.

On Thursday, the city health office here confirmed that a female OFW who just returned home from Saudi Arabia was placed on quarantine at a local hospital after reportedly showing suspected symptoms of MERS-CoV.

Dr. Mely Lastimoso, chief of the city health office’s epidemiology and surveillance unit, said the OFW volunteered to undergo quarantine and testing for MERS-CoV after being diagnosed with respiratory infection several days after arriving from Saudi Arabia.

She said the patient arrived in Manila ahead of the April 15 Etihad Airways flight from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates that included a passenger who had tested positive for MERS-CoV.

Meantime, Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) chief, said they have been taking the necessary precautionary measures to prevent the disease from possibly
entering and spreading to the area.

He said they have assigned the IPHO’s epidemiology and surveillance unit, rural midwives and municipal health officers of the province’s 10 towns and lone city to lead the monitoring for the disease.

“As of now, there’s no need to worry about this since there was no confirmed case yet that has entered the country. The national government and the World Health Organization have been also taking all
necessary precautionary measures against MERS-CoV,” he said.

But it case it reaches the area, Aturdido assured that they are ready and the DOH has already issued a protocol in terms of their handling and treatment.

In Zamboanga City, the regional health office said five OFWs from the area who took the same Etihad flight also tested negative of MERS-Cov.

But RESU head Dr. Norvie Jalani said they are still waiting for the results of the laboratory analysis on a sixth passenger, a foreigner who visited Zamboanga del Norte.

Of the five OFWs, two are from this city, one is from Zamboanga del Sur, one is from Zamboanga del Norte, and another one is from Zamboanga Sibugay. Three of them are females and two are males.

Jalani urged people “especially those who have history of travel around the Arabian Peninsula” who showed symptoms of MERS-Cov to go to the hospital for early treatment. (MindaNews)