For the second time this year the Philippines finds itself with an imported case of MERS (ex Dubai & Saudi Arabia), and has begun the laborious task of contact tracing. The 36 year-old traveler apparently arrived in-country late in June (the exact date has not been provided), fell ill on July 2nd and was diagnosed July 4th.
The Philippines DOH press release also mentions a close contact who has developed a cough, and is in isolation. Test results are awaited.
Despite only low numbers of MERS cases being reported these past few months on the Arabian peninsula, we continue to see sporadic exportation of infected cases with Korea, Thailand, and now the Philippines recently receiving infected travelers.
First, a brief report from Xinhua News followed by the Philippine Department of Health Statement.
Xinhua, July 6, 2015
The Philippine government confirmed Monday that a foreign national is now being treated in a state-run hospital for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.
Health Secretary Janette Garin said the 36-year-old male foreigner from the Middle East was the second case of MERS in the country after the first one was treated and recovered from sickness in February.
The foreigner was admitted at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila on Saturday.
Garin, in a televised press conference, described the patient to be on "stable (condition) and very cooperative."
She said that other people who had close contact with the patient are also being monitored.
The official assured the public that there is no reason to be panic.
July 6, 2015
Press Release/06 July 2015
The Department of Health (DOH) has mobilized Task Force MERSCoV to create heightened awareness and vigilance among our people on the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERSCoV) and prevent the spread of this communicable disease.
Last Saturday, 11:30 am, having received the referral Research Institute for Tropical Medicine about a foreigner with a cough and came from the Middle East. About twelve o'clock, the test yielded a positive result. Please update rumisponde patient and transferred to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). He is currently monitored, stable and very cooperative. Please see low viral load of patients. Ie, not so much the MERS coronavirus in her body and possibly heal it.
Sa kasalukuyan, in isolation din ang isa nyang close contact who developed cough. We are awaiting results of her test.
At the moment, Task Force MERSCoV has started contact tracing of people who were possibly exposed with the said foreigner during the history of travel here in the country. Those contacted will be monitored daily by the Regional Epidemiology Service Unit until they are cleared of a possible MERSCoV infection.
Let us remind the public that there is no documented community transmission of MERS. Usually occurs within the hospital fleeting things. Health workers are usually at risk. Transmission also occurs via repeated and close contact with a family member or a household companion.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend the imposition of any travel, trade, or screening restrictions related to MERSCoV. However, it is advised that travelers, whether tourists or migrant workers, should maintain a high level of vigilance, especially those coming from MERSCoV infected countries.
The DOH reiterated its call to Filipinos who have returned recently from the Middle East to report to the nearest hospital if they experience symptoms of the MERS-Corona Virus which are similar to the indications of flu, including fever with cough, cold, or sneezing.
The Bureau of Quarantine is closely monitoring all points of entry in the Philippines to ensure the surveillance of all incoming travelers from different countries. They are calling to the public to honestly fill-up the health declaration checklist (yellow form) as an initial participation to prevent MERSCoV in entering the Philippines.
While MERS has yet to prove itself ready for prime time as a global health threat, the havoc it has wrought in Korea is an example of what can happen if it isn’t detected early and quickly contained.
With the holy month of Ramadan winding down (ends July 17th) , and with the yearly Hajj a little more than 2 months away (late September this year), the next few months will require extra vigilance around the world as hundreds of thousands of travelers return from religious pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia.
A reminder that with our highly mobile society, a disease threat anywhere in the world can easily become a health concern for the entire globe.