Source : Philippines DOH Facebook page
Based on the drop in the number of MERS cases reported by the Saudi MOH over the the summer, it is a bit surprising this morning to discover that a Philippine nurse, just returned from working in KSA, has tested positive for the virus and is now in isolation at Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.
This makes the second imported case of MERS for the Philippines.
First this this report from Xinhua News, then I’ll be back with a bit more.
MANILA, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) confirmed on Wednesday that a Filipina nurse who returned to the country from Saudi Arabia tested positive for the dreaded Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV).
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the Filipina nurse came home last Friday via Saudia Airlines Flight SV 870. She then took Cebu Pacific Flight SJ 997 going home to General Santos City in southern Philippines.
"The (infected) nurse stayed with the other Filipina nurse in ( the northern Philippine province of) Bulacan until her scheduled flight to General Santos City on August 31," said Ona in a press briefing on Wednesday.
He said the two Filipina nurses returned to the Philippines together. They were tested for MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia but did not wait for the results.
"The two were working in the same hospital in Dammam and they were tested there. Yesterday, they were informed by their supervisor that one of them was positive (for MERS-CoV)," said Ona.
The infected nurse, whose identity was not disclosed by Ona, was brought to the Southern Philippines Medical Center to be isolated. Throat swab samples collected from her will be analyzed. Results of the analysis are expected to come out on Wednesday night.
Ona said the DOH is now contacting other passengers of the Saudia Airlines and Cebu Pacific flights taken by the Filipina nurse to monitor their condition.
MERS-CoV is a highly fatal respiratory illness presenting an influenza-like illness characterized by fever, cough, and often with diarrhea.
Despite the entry of the infected Filipina nurse in the country, Ona said the Philippines remains free from MERS-CoV since no one has yet acquired the virus locally.
Last week KSA reported a pair of MERS cases at a hospital in Dammam (see 27 August MOH: '1 New Confirmed Corona Case Recorded' & 26 August MOH: '1 New Confirmed Corona Case Recorded'), a symptomatic female (age 52) and a symptomatic male (age 69). Neither were described as being health care workers.
Today’s report is a reminder that the MERS coronavirus continues to circulate in the Middle East, and that with the Hajj now just 30 days away, it continues to represent a serious public health concern.
This confluence of a couple of million into a confined space, coming from all over the world, provides a perfect `mixing bowl’ for viruses and bacteria, and has the real potential to seed them to new regions of the globe when the pilgrims leave.
Last July, in EID Journal: Respiratory Viruses & Bacteria Among Pilgrims During The 2013 Hajj, we looked at the extraordinarily high percentage of Hajjis (approx. 80%) who either acquire or leave with some type of respiratory infection while doing this pilgrimage.
While the vast majority will have rhinoviruses or influenza, differentiating those from something more serious will be a major public health undertaking – both while in Saudi Arabia, and later, when these pilgrims return to their home countries.