DOH to continue quarantine period for health workers with MERS-CoV symptoms

By Leilani S. Junio

MANILA, Oct. 5 (PNA) — The Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday it will continue to closely monitor the health condition of 12 patients confined in two of its health facilities for symptoms of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) even if initial tests on them yielded negative results.

The 12 symptomatic patients were quarantined after showing signs and symptoms of the deadly disease.

According to DOH spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee-Suy, the patients (health workers) were being closely monitored and samples of their sputum were taken and tested on Saturday.

They are staying and under observation at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, and San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

Dr. Lee-Suy said that based on initial tests conducted, the results turned out negative, meaning it is possible that the patients are MERS-CoV free.

However, he added that succeeding tests are still necessary and they (the 12 patients) have to complete the 14-day quarantine period to ensure that they are “MERS-CoV free.”

“Even if they turned out negative, they will still be quarantined up to Oct. 13,” the DOH spokesperson said.

He stressed that repeating tests is important because there is also a possibility that during the initial testing, the viral load was still very low to be detected or was just taking time to increase strength as MERS-CoV.

It may be recalled that the 12 patients were subjected to quarantine after a contact-tracing process indicated they are among those that had close contact with the 63-year-old Saudi national who died of “suspected MERS-CoV” on Sept. 29 in an undisclosed private hospital where the patient was rushed a day earlier.

The 12 patients displayed signs and symptoms of MERS-CoV which prompted the DOH to subject them for quarantine to ensure that in case the death of the Saudi national was really due to MERS-CoV, the situation will be immediately controlled and immediate management of MERS-CoV illness can be done.

Although no confirmatory test was taken on the sputum of the Saudi national who died after suffering from myocardial infarction, the initial X-rays findings of the patient revealed some signs and symptoms pointing to a typical MERS-CoV patient.

Based on the findings, prior to the death of the Saudi national, the patient was suffering as early as Sept. 26 from chills and fever.

The patient, who was staying in a hotel, was brought by hotel attendants to the hospital and admitted for confinement on Sept. 28.

However, despite efforts to save him, the patient’s condition deteriorated, leading to succumbing to death on Sept. 29.

Since the DOH was not immediately notified on the case of the patient prior to the reported death of the Saudi national, taking of sputum samples was not immediately conducted. Lack of confirmatory test makes it impossible to officially declare the cause of death due to MERS-CoV and instead aptly described as “suspected MERS-CoV.”

It is classified as “suspected MERS-CoV” because there is no confirmatory test taken that can reveal if the patient was positive with MERS-CoV.

In addition, it was traced that the tourist had a stroke sometime in year 2000.

MERS-CoV is an illness similar to flu, wherein a patient displays signs and symptoms like high fever with cough, cold or sneezing.

Most vulnerable to it are senior citizens with case history of diabetes and stroke.

According to DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin, sputum testing can only be made if the patient is still alive and in case the body of the patient is not yet filled with formalin substance.

“This is an extraordinary situation because we weren’t able to get samples,” Secretary Garin said as she mentioned that since the religion of the tourist required him to be immediately embalmed and repatriated back to his country.

The tourist arrived in the country on Sept. 17.

A total of 93 people who had contact with him were located after his death.

Of them, 81 were advised for home quarantine even if they were not displaying signs and symptoms of MERS-CoV.

These people consist of hospital staff, hotel staff and funeral parlor workers. (PNA)