Etihad passenger from GenSan tests negative of MERS-CoV

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 April) — One of the passengers from Region 12 of Etihad Airlines flight EY 0424 that arrived in Manila last April 15 with a person who had tested positive of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) has been found negative of the disease.

Dr. Alah Baby Vingno, chief of the Department of Health (DOH) Region 12’s regional epidemiology and surveillance unit (RESU), said Wednesday a returning overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from this city has yielded negative of MERS-CoV based on test results released by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

She said the OFW was one of the two passengers of the Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates who were earlier traced as residents of this city.

After arriving in Manila, the two proceeded to Davao City where they were “captured” by DOH Region 11 personnel and eventually sent to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) for the mandatory quarantine and tests for MERS-CoV, she said.

A report released by RESU showed that 11 of the listed 415 passengers of Etihad flight EY 0424 were found to be 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.

It said nine of the passengers were returning OFWs while the two others were a visiting foreigner and an OFW from Region 6 or Western Visayas.

Three cases, including a foreigner, were listed in Kidapawan City; two each in this city, South Cotabato and Sarangani; and, one each in North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

Jenelyn Ellie Ventura, DOH-12’s health education officer, said eight of the passengers are being quarantined at various hospitals while the two others are “house-based.”

She said three are confined at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center in Cotabato City; one at the Kiamba district hospital in Kiamba, Sarangani; one at the RITM in Alabang, Muntinlupa City; one at the SPMC in Davao City; and, two at a hospital in Kidapawan City.

Two patients, one of whom was an OFW from Polomolok town in South Cotabato, are undergoing quarantine in their homes, she said.

Ventura said all of them have been taken with throat swabs, which were immediately sent to the RITM for the MERS-CoV tests.

“They will remain under quarantine until the RITM releases their test results,” she told MindaNews on the phone.

She said they were advised by RITM personnel that the tests and analysis of the samples for MERS-CoV could take “at least a week.”

In Cotabato City, the Health department of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said they are also Etihad passengers who came from the region.

ARMM Health Secretary Dr. Kadil Sinolinding said they have tracked that three of those OFWs came from Marawi city, Balagaban town in Lanao del Sur and Pagalungan town in Maguindanao.

Sinolinding said they are coordinating with the police, and none of the three OFWs have shown symptoms of the dreaded virus so far.

He said they are working closely with their counterparts in Region-12 due to the proximity of the two regions.

He said all of the monitored OFWs have submitted themselves and undergone tests, adding the results will be known next week.

MERS-CoV, which initially emerged in 2012, is a viral disease that is similar to the dreaded severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS.

People afflicted with the virus developed severe acute respiratory illness, specifically high fever, cough and shortness of breath.

About half of the people afflicted with MERS-CoV have already died.

The DOH earlier said a male Filipino nurse who came aboard Etihad’s flight EY 0424 initially tested positive for the MERS-CoV when he was still in the United Arab Emirates.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the nurse was quarantined for four days and underwent two more tests that turned out to be negative. (with a report from Ferdinandh Cabrera in Cotabato City)