Philippines: Second Case of Mers Alerts Authorities

MANILA, Philippines: Health Authorities report that a 36-year-old foreigner from the Middle East has been placed under quarantine after testing positive for the MERS virus. While the patient’s home country has not been immediately disclosed, people who may have come in close contact with the foreigner are being tracked according to Philippine’s Health Secretary Janette Garin. One of them, a Filipino woman did exhibit some mild symptoms – she has thus been isolated and that her test results were being awaited.

It’s the second confirmed case of Middle East respiratory syndrome in the Philippines. In February, a Filipino nurse tested positive for MERS after arriving home Saudi Arabia. She was cleared of the virus the same month.

MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is an infection caused by coronavirus (which includes the SARS, common cold and flu viruses). Although, it’s still not confirmed how it’s transmitted from one person to another, it is believed to spread from an infected person’s respiratory secretions, like coughing and sneezing.

In the latest case, the patient arrived in the Philippines on June 19 from Saudi Arabia but also stayed in Dubai. He left on a second trip while not yet exhibiting any symptoms and came back to the Philippines, said officials, who did not want to disclose where the patient went. The patient then developed a fever and cough on June 30, the health department informed. He sought medical care on July 2, tested positive for the MERS virus on July 4 and was transferred to the government’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine facility.

Garin said around 200 passengers who were on the second flight with him were being traced.

Lyndon Lee-Suy, the health department spokesman, said 19 other close contacts of the foreigner were still being traced.

President Benigno Aquino III has tasked the health department to tighten surveillance and quarantine measures to ensure prompt reporting by all patients who show symptoms of the disease for immediate isolation, treatment and contact tracing, said his spokesman Herminio Coloma.

According to the World Health Organization MERS has killed 33 people in South Korea, where 186 cases have been confirmed. The recent outbreak in South Korea was the second major outbreak after the virus was first recognized in the Middle East, back in 2012, causing the first death in Saudi Arabia in June of the same year.The infected patients most commonly report having a fever, cough and breathing difficulties but it can also worsen and lead to pneumonia and kidney failure. In Seoul, the Samsung Medical Centerwas implicated as being the source for half of the MERS cases in the country.

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