Rise of MERS cases worries OFWs in Jeddah

Posted at 04/16/2014 10:55 AM | Updated as of 04/17/2014 9:05 AM

MANILA – Jeddah-based Filipinos expressed their concerns with the reported increase of people infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-COV).

"As a nurse, and being directly in contact with patients, nababahala din kami sa risk na mahawa sa kumakalat na virus ngayon sa Middle East," said Abigail Nebrada, a nurse who works at the Maghrabi Hospital.

Nebrada said that as a precautionary measure, some of their staff now use face masks and hand sanitizers.

"Although we're trained on how to deal with patients having communicable and infectious diseases, kumpara sa nakaraang linggo ang sitwasyon dito ngayon sa aming hospital ay mas nabahala ang aming mga staff, lalo na ang mga healthcare providers sa pagsuot ng respiratory masks at hand sanitizers ng sa ganoon hindi sila mahawaan ng Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus," she said.

Reports said that at least four Filipinos in Jeddah are being monitored for any sign of the disease.

"While there are no symptoms manifested, parang suspetsa nila meron silang virus. Pero dahil hinala nila, inasolate na sila para hindi nga makahawa," said Administrator Carmelita Dimzon of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Likewise, the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah is monitoring the said cases and has dispatched a team composed of Labor Attache Jainal Rasul and Welfare Officer Dr. Amelito Adel to verifying the report.

"Nang bumalik sila at mag-ulat, hindi raw sila nabigyan ng information dahil ito daw ay confidential information. So ang ginawa namin para makuha ang information na yun nagpadala kami ng note verbale sa Ministry of Foreign Affairs humihingi na bigyan tayo ng impormasyon sa mga kababayan natin na maaring nahawa ng mga sakit at sinabi din natin kung ano ang maitulong natin sa mga kababayang may sakit," said Consul General Uriel Norman Garibay.

Garibay still urged Filipinos in Jeddah to not panic. The consulate also posted on its website the health advisory released by the Saudi Ministry of Health on how to avoid the disease.

Symptoms of the disease include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and diarrhea.

"Wag mag-aalala dahil under control naman ang sakit na ito. Ganun pa man, reiterate namin ang aming advisory sa mga kababayan natin sa Western Region tungkol doon sa mga hakbang na pwede nilang gawin para maiwasan ang ganitong mga sakit," he said.

Based on the World Health Organizations, 15 people have been affected by MERS-COVA in Saudi Arabia from April 6 to April 11. The number already includes two fatalities. Of the 15 cases, 12 are reported in Jeddah, three in Riyadh.

"Nakakabahala lalo na itong place ko malapit sa Balad, ung mga Hajji dun nagpupunta at maraming may sakit. Kasama ko ang family ko dito ngayon nag-stay na lang kami sa bahay," said graphic designer Justin Diaz.

Earlier this week, a Filipino paramedic in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates passed away due to MERS-COV.

His body will be cremated in the UAE on Sunday.

UAE authorities and the OFW's family have agreed it would be safer to keep his ashes there instead of bringing him home to the Philippines.

"Nagsisiguro lang yung authorities na just to make sure na wala nang mai-spread pang virus, ililibing na lang nila yung ashes," Dimzon said.

The deceased OFW was an active OWWA member. His family will receive P100,000, livelihood assistance, and scholarship from government.

Meanwhile, five of his fellow Filipino paramedics believed to be infected have been placed under quarantine. Reports from Frank Resma, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau, and Nina Corpuz, ABS-CBN News