Eleven people who had close contact with the nurse infected with MERS-CoV showed symptoms of the disease, according to the Department of Health (DOH). They are part of the 56 people listed to have had close contact with the infected nurse.
Although the initial round of tests using nose and throat swab samples done to all 56 persons yielded a negative result, the 11 who showed symptoms of the disease will undergo another round of tests using sputum and rectal swabs. They are now being closely monitored inside the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City.
Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin said they do not consider the 56 persons entirely negative of the disease. She said the MERS-CoV reside deep in the lungs. Phlegm and rectal swabs must be taken from them and be tested to make sure they are negative.
To be declared free of the disease, one should be tested three times in a span of 2 days showing a negative result.
Included in the 11 persons who showed MERS-CoV symptoms are the infected nurse’s husband and 10 health workers from the Evangelista Medical Specialty Hospital in Pacita, San Pedro, Laguna, where the nurse first sought medical attention on February 2.
Dr. Cecilia Evangelista of the Evangelista Medical Specialty Hospital said, the infected nurse, who is 4 to 5 weeks pregnant, was placed under strict isolation in the hospital from February 2 until her transfer to RITM on February 10.
According to Dr. Evangelista, they have disinfected the hospital, but for everybody’s peace of mind they decided to submit to a thorough disinfection to be conducted by the DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO). The hospital will be closed for 14 days during the disinfection.
The WHO representative to the Philippines Julie Hall, acting Health Secretary Garin and other DOH officials went to San Pedro, Laguna to allay the fears of people and inform them that MERS-CoV does not easily spread from one person to another without close contact.
The DOH said 92 of the 220 co-passengers of the infected nurse were already located and agreed to be tested. The health department called on the remaining co-passengers to contact the DOH hotline and undergo testing.
San Pedro, Laguna Mayor Lourdes Cataquiz urged residents not to spread false rumors about the disease to avoid panic. She’s also discouraging people to wear face masks as it would only cause more panic, according to her.
MERS-CoV or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus is a deadly influenza-like infection characterized by fever, cough, body aches and often with diarrhea. The disease has a 30% mortality rate.
Aside from RITM, these are the hospitals that can conduct tests for MERS-CoV: San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, Southern Philippines Medical Center, and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.