President Benigno S. Aquino III has instructed the Department of Health (DOH)
to mobilize a task force to create a heightened awareness among the public
on the Middle East Respirator Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV).
In a televised press conference on Saturday, Health Secretary Enrique Ona
said the DOH is working closely with all concerned government agencies to
ensure public health and safety.
Secretary Ona, however, pointed out that there is no epidemec or outbreak of
“Upon the President’s instructions, the Department of Health has mobilized
Task Force MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus to create a
heightened awareness among our people and prevent the spread of this
communicable disease,” the secretary said.
“At the outset, let me point this out: there is still no epidemic or
outbreak of MERS-Corona Virus in the Middle East or the Arabian Peninsula.
That is why the World Health Organization has not imposed restrictions in
travel to and from the Middle East,” he added.
As a precaution, Secretary
Ona said he approved the issuance of Bureau of Quarantine alert bulletins to
those travelling from the Middle East and through the international
The Health Secretary said Task Force MERS-CoV continues to trace and test
all the passengers of Etihad Airlines flight EY 0424 that arrived at the
Ninoy Aquino International Airport on April 15.
One of the more than 400 passengers of the Etihad flight, a male Filipino
nurse tested positive for the MERS-CoV when he was still in the United Arab
The DOH tracked this “Index Passenger” while he was on his way home and
requested his relatives and well-wishers to subject themselves to testing
and medical observation at a DOH regional hospital.
Secretary Ona said the “Index Passenger” tested negative for the virus
based on the findings of the examination conducted by the Research Institute
for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
Ona, however, pointed out that the other passengers who travelled with
the “Index Passenger” were still considered at risk. Thus, the secretary
urged the other passengers of the Etihad flight to submit themselves to
“May I emphasize this important fact: the MERS-Corona Virus is a
communicable disease that may be passed on to others through exposure or
close contact with a positive carrier,” he said.
“Hence, all those who travelled with our Index Passenger are still deemed to
be at risk, especially if we consider further that they all came from the
Middle East, a high-risk area, and that the incubation period for this
disease is up to 14 days. Hence, to rule out any possibility of infection,
we strongly urge all of the other passengers of EY 0424 to immediately
submit themselves to testing,” he said.
Secretary Ona said that of the 414 passengers of Etihad flight EY 0424,
the DOH has been able to trace and contact 119 of them, of whom 72 have been
tested. Of the 72 passengers, 40 tested negative.
Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, DOH Program Manager on Emerging Infectious Diseases,
said the DOH continues to trace and contact the other passengers of the
Etihad flight. He also emphasized that there is no epedimec or outbreak of
MERS-CoV in the country.
The DOH also calls the attention of Filipinos who have returned recently
from the Middle East to report to the nearest hospital if they experience
flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, cold, and sneezing.
Secretary Ona also assured the public that the DOH is working closely with
concerned government agencies, and will exert “maximum efforts” to keep them
informed of the vital developments.
“On instructions of the President, the DOH is working closely with all
concerned government agencies to ensure the health and safety of our
people,” the secretary said during a televised press conference.
“The Deaprtment of Health assures our people, especially our overseas
Filipino workers based in the Middle East and their families and
communities, that government will exert maximum efforts to keep you informed
and aware of all vital developments,” he added.
The Department of Health has also established 24-hour hotlines for the
public. The telephone numbers are: 711-1001; 711-1002; 0922-884-1564;
0920-949-8419; 0915-772-5621. PND (co)