Fear MERS exposure? Seek medical help ASAP

Photo: Reuters

If you think you've been exposed to the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus, go to the nearest hospital and seek medical attention.

The Department of Health (DOH) spokesman, Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, said persons who might have been exposed to or were showing signs of the disease, especially after traveling to the Middle East and South Korea, should not delay testing for the virus in hospitals.

The symptoms of the virus are similar to the common flu, which includes fever, coughing and sneezing.

"It doesn't matter if it's a public or private hospital. It's up to their preference," Lee Suy told the Inquirer. The DOH has established a referral system among public and private hospitals in reporting and handling cases of the virus.

Specimens are forwarded to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City, the primary hospital designated to handle MERS cases, for testing.

If one is coughing or sneezing, among the symptoms of the disease, it is best that he or she wear a face mask when traveling to or visiting a healthcare provider to protect others from getting infected, said Lee Suy.

"These are the only tips we can give to those who may have been exposed to the virus. But there are a lot of things the public can do to prevent infection," he said.

Lee Suy said proper and frequent hand-washing, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing and maintaining a distance of at least one meter from others will help protect oneself from the dreaded virus.

In a press conference on Monday, Health Secretary Janette Garin advised the public to get enough rest and sleep, and to eat a balanced diet to boost their immune system.

On its website, the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has outlined prevention steps for people confirmed to have or are being evaluated for MERS infection:

- Aside from getting medical care, restrict activities outside the home. Do not go to public areas and do not use public transportation or taxis.

- Stay in a different room from other people at home. If available, use a separate bathroom.

- Call your doctor to inform him or her that you have or are being evaluated for MERS infection to help his or her office take steps to keep other people from getting infected.

- Wear a face mask and cover your coughs and sneezes.

- Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water.