MANILA: The Philippines said Saturday it was stepping up its defences against the deadly MERS virus, with the large numbers of Filipino workers in the Middle East seen as potential carriers.
“It is important that families, friends and members of their local communities fully understand all that must be known about the MERS coronavirus,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona told a news conference.
A male Filipino nurse who had tested positive for the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) virus in the United Arab Emirates returned to the Philippines on Tuesday, according to the health department.
The man was later tracked down and quarantined, along with relatives who picked him up at Manila airport, as part of the increased monitoring procedures, but all of them were subsequently found to be free of the virus, Ona said.
Health authorities were continuing to track the rest of the 418 passengers on the same Etihad Airways flight, including 45 foreigners, so they could also be tested, he added. The virus has a two-week incubation period, so all those passengers “are still deemed to be at risk”, Ona said.
A total of 119 passengers had so far been contacted by the health department, and all 40 who were tested yielded negative results, Ona said.
While the World Health Organisation has not declared a MERS epidemic, the Philippines has stepped up monitoring as it has a large number of workers in the Middle East, many of whom work in Saudi Arabia and the UAE which have both reported cases.