Suspect MERS case in SouthCot sent to Davao for isolation, testing

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 4 Sept) – The Department of Health (DOH) in Region 12 has sent to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City for isolation and testing a close family member of a nurse who tested positive of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) before returning home from Saudi Arabia last week.

Dr. Alah Baby Vingno, chief of the DOH Region 12’s regional epidemiology and surveillance unit, said Thursday they decided to move the nurse’s relative from their hometown in the municipality of Banga in South Cotabato to the SPMC after the latter showed signs and symptoms of possible MERS-CoV infection.

She said the transfer was facilitated on Wednesday by the municipal health office of Banga and the Integrated Provincial Health Office of South Cotabato.

“It was a precautionary measure. We want to make sure that (the suspected victim) will be properly isolated and tested for the disease,” she said in an interview over television program Magandang Umaga South Central Mindanao.

Vingno said the suspected MERS-CoV victim was among the nine persons from Banga town who were earlier required to undergo self-quarantine after being confirmed to have had close contact with the nurse.

The nurse, who works at the Jubail General Hospital in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Manila last August 29 along with another co-worker aboard Saudi Airlines Flight SV870 from Dammam that had 249 passengers.

She and her co-worker reportedly had close contact with MERS-CoV patients confined at the hospital before returning home for a month-long vacation.

The two were tested for MERS-CoV last week but decided to board the flight to Manila without knowing the results, which turned out positive.

The nurse only knew of the test result after arriving in her hometown last September 1 via Cebu Pacific flight 5J-997 from Manila to this city.

DOH-12 and IPHO-South Cotabato personnel immediately transferred the nurse to the SPMC in Davao City following notification of the test result.

She is currently confined at the SPMC’s isolation unit.

“As of the moment, the nurse remained asymptomatic of MERS-CoV or she did not show any signs and symptoms of the disease,” Vingno said.

MERS-CoV is a fatal respiratory illness presenting influenza-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and diarrhea.

The World Health Organization said it has recorded 837 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV globally, including at least 291 related deaths, as of July 23.

Vingno said they already sent on Wednesday the nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs of the nurse to the DOH’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Alabang, Muntinlupa City for testing.

She said they could not say as to how long the laboratory testing process would take and when the test results will be released.

“If the test result will turn out positive, the victim will immediately undergo treatment for MERS-CoV. But if it yields negative, she will be released and allowed to go home,” she said.

Vingno said they are currently on alert for other possible infections from passengers of the Cebu Pacific flight from Manila that was boarded by the nurse.

She said the DOH central office alerted them on Wednesday for the tracking of the 143 listed passengers of the flight.

“We’re still on standby right now and we’re waiting for orders (from the DOH central office),” she said.

Vingno advised other passengers of the Cebu Pacific flight to undergo self-quarantine and immediately reach out to the DOH through their nearest health centers should they experience possible symptoms of MERS-CoV.