OFWs from UAE quarantined in GenSan, Sarangani for possible MERS infection

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 22 April) – Two residents from this city and one from Sarangani province who were on the Etihad Airlines flight carrying a passenger who initially tested positive of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) have been placed on quarantine for possible infection.

Dr. Edgardo Sandig, city health officer, said Tuesday the returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) submitted themselves to quarantine and testing to check whether they had contracted the deadly disease from their co-passenger.

The two passengers proceeded to this city after arriving from Abu Dhabi along with around 400 other passengers of Etihad flight EY 0424, he said.

Sandig said the quarantine was based on a directive from the Department of Health (DOH), which had issued an alert for the disease.

“We’re closely watching the two OFWs as a single positive case could easily spread since it is a communicable disease,” he said.

The official assured that they are extra cautious and implementing various precautionary measures to prevent the possible spread of the disease to the area.

“The national government and the international community is very worried about this disease so we’re not taking this lightly,” he said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.

In Sarangani, provincial health officer Dr. Arvin Alejandro said the Sarangani resident on the Etihad flight is also being quarantined at a facility in Kiamba town.

He said the OFW has underwent initial testing and the samples had been sent to the DOH’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine based in Alabang, Muntinlupa City for confirmation.

“We’re still waiting for the result of the (confirmatory) test,” he said. Alejandro said they immediately located the OFW last week after the DOH issued an alert for MERS-CoV for all passengers of Etihad flight EY 0424.

“It’s important to locate all of them (passengers) to immediately contain the disease in case one of them turns out positive,” he said.

Aside from the three returning OFWs from this city and Sarangani, the DOH in Region 12 has located another passenger of Etihad flight EY 0424 in Norala town in South Cotabato and in Kidapawan City.

The agency is tracking down another passenger in Polomolok town in South Cotabato and Pikit town in North Cotabato.

Various government agencies earlier stepped up their monitoring against the disease in the region in response to the DOH alert.

Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, convened a command conference involving all police units in the region in response to the DOH alert.

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. But he said all the passengers who travelled with the nurse were still considered at risk of the disease and urged them to immediately undergo quarantine and testing.