DOH: Filipina nurse from Saudi Arabia infected with MERS-CoV

Saudi medical staff leaving the emergency department at a hospital in the center of the Saudi capital Riyadh on April 8, 2014. Health authorities in Western Mindanao have placed under tight watch two city residents and another one from Basilan to verify if they have been infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
PHOTO: DOH: Filipina nurse from Saudi Arabia infected with MERS-CoV

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Health authorities in Western Mindanao said they have placed under tight watch two city residents and another one from Basilan to verify if they have been infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Those placed under tight monitoring were among the 143 passengers of a Cebu Pacific flight that a Saudi Arabia-based Filipino nurse - who had tested positive for the virus - took from Manila to Mindanao last week.

Dr. Venus Fortuna, head of the infectious cluster of the Department of Health in Western Mindanao, said specimen samples would be taken from the three. The samples will be sent for testing to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila. Meanwhile, the MERS-Cov-positive nurse and her husband have been quarantined in the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.

Saudi health authorities earlier confirmed the nurse had the virus.

Although the nurse tested positive during tests in Saudi Arabia, Philippine health authorities said they would subject her to another test in the Philippines to confirm the finding.

"We are still waiting for the double negative result, which are two sets of tests conducted by the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) that will determine if the patient has the disease of not," Mary Hilario, information officer of the Department of Health in Southern Mindanao, told reporters on Wednesday.

"And we are hoping that it will turn out negative, similar to last April homecoming of some 200 overseas workers who were initially tested of MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, but tested negative in our country," Hilario said.

"Our overseas workers are required to submit themselves to the health ministry for test before leaving Saudi Arabia, but we don't know how she managed to sneak past," Hilario said.

Since MERS-CoV is a highly infectious respiratory illness, the nurse and her husband are now being kept in isolation at SPMC, according to Hilario.

"As a matter of protocol, the couple is subjected to a quarantine procedure for the next 14 days, which is the incubation period of the disease," Hilario said.