MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who arrived in Manila Tuesday (April 15) from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tested positive for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-COV).
Four members of his family from the UAE have been quarantined plus the 5 people who fetched him at the airport.
Even though these 10 people have not exhibited symptoms of MERS-COV, Ona said they have been placed under isolation to prevent the possible spread of the virus.
"They are now in isolation together with the family. All of them are without symptoms," he said.
He explained that the OFW, a nurse, tested positive for MERS-COV after he was exposed to the Filipino paramedic who died from the disease in Al Ain.
"When we say exposed, may contact siya. We are not even sure kung kaibigan niya yung namatay, mga kasama niya," he said.
He said the Department of Health (DOH) received the information regarding the nurse from its counterparts in the UAE.
The OFW nurse and his relatives will have to undergo separate tests during their stay at an undisclosed hospital. The results of the tests will be issued on Friday or Saturday.
“Since they are symptom-less, we are just doing some preventive measures. We will give them medicines once they exhibit symptoms,” he said.
The incubation period of the virus is 10 to 14 days.
At the moment, there is no vaccine against MERS-CoV, he said.
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In an interview on DZMM's "Magandang Gabi Dok", Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy of DOH, added that they have yet to wait for the official results from UAE.
He also explained that the OFW and his family were already in transit before the test results from UAE came out.
"Yung case natin, dahil tested positive siya, gagawa tayo ng panibagong exam to validate the results."
Lee Suy also advised those who have recently been to the Middle East, or those who had direct contact with people who have been to the Middle East, to monitor their health.
"Kung may history of travel to Middle East, tapos lumabas na yung symptoms, magpacheck na po tayo. Huwag po tayong matakot na sabihin sa doktor na galing tayong Middle East para alam nila na possibleng MERS-CoV ito."
He also said that they will be performing tests on the OFW until he tests negative and is cleared of the virus.
Ona said the DOH is “contact-tracing” those who were near or had been in contact with the OFW.
“We need to observe them so that they can undergo tests,” he said.
So far, authorities have been able to contact those in front, at the back, and those beside the OFW on the plane from UAE to Manila.
"We will call these people, talk with them one on one, we might visit them, para iexplain sa kanila ang risk," Lee Suy added.
He also advised these people to stay at home for 14 days, and if they do not experience any of the symptoms of the disease, then they can be cleared.
Ona assured the public that there is no need to panic.
“I don’t even think a travel restriction to and from UAE is necessary,” he said.
The Bureau of Quarantine will strictly implement monitoring procedures, he said.
He also said the DOH will be sending an epidemiology expert and an infectious disease specialist to the UAE to assist the Filipinos there.
“The decision to send these health experts was made to look into the situation where a Filipino health worker died and six others were found to be positive, as reported by health authorities of the country of origin,” the DOH said.
The DOH also urged the OFWs with respiratory illnesses to see their healthcare providers. It also reminded the public to observe frequent handwashing and to cover their mouths when coughing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the symptoms of MERS-CoV include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and even diarrhea.
Human cases of MERS-CoV have also been reported in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Oman. – with reports from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News