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Search for Etihad passengers launched in Philippines

Publication Date : 21-04-2014


The  Philippines' health department may have to track down more than 200 passengers of Etihad flight number EY0424 even if a returning male Filipino nurse who earlier tested positive for the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) has been cleared.

President Aquino presided over an almost five-hour closed-door meeting on MERS-CoV with some of his Cabinet officials on Saturday to discuss the “continuing effort to trace and contact the passengers” of EY 0424, said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma.

“The President emphasised the need to trace, contact and test all the passengers of EY 0424 as the virus is transmitted by close contact with a known carrier,” Coloma said in a statement.

The MERS-CoV is a respiratory virus that is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which spread in China 12 years ago.

Its symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea.
The Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi arrived in Manila on April 15 with a total of 415 passengers, among them a Filipino nurse who earlier tested positive for MERS-CoV in the United Arab Emirates.

Out of the flight’s 415 passengers, the Department of Health has traced and contacted 119, of whom 72 have been tested. So far, 40 were negative of the virus. The health agency is still awaiting the rest of the results.

As of 1 p.m. yesterday, Coloma said the DOH had contacted 34 more passengers, and are tracking 213 more.

The health agency in Western Visayas (DOH-6) has taken samples from 11 passengers of the same Etihad Airways flight.

The passengers were also put on quarantine in a hospital in Iloilo City pending results of swab tests taken on Saturday, according to Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist.

Alonsabe said the specimens were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City for MERS-CoV testing.
The 11 persons quarantined were among the 18 passengers from Western Visayas.

The DOH earlier confirmed that an OFW on the same flight tested positive for the virus but did not show symptoms of the illness.
Alonsabe said they were still tracing the seven other passengers from Western Visayas who were still in other regions or could not be located.

Coloma said the President has “directed that efforts to trace and contact all other passengers be continued until all had been tested.”

"This is to rule out the possibility that there may be others who are positive for the virus, considering that all of them traveled from the Middle East (Arabian Peninsula) which is the source of the virus, and considering further that there is a 14-day maximum incubation period,” he said.

Already, a female OFW from Maguindanao, who had worked in Saudi Arabia about five years, has died of suspected MERS-CoV, according to her family.

Tidting Khalifa of Matanog, Maguindanao, said his 44-year-old daughter, Husna, had been taken to the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah and died there on  April 12.

Husna, Khalifa said, had been in Saudi Arabia since 2009 on an assumed passport belonging to a Norisa Naing.

“It was given to her by her recruiter,” he said, without naming names.
Khalifa, quoting information the family got from sources, including other relatives working in Jeddah, said his daughter had suffered from flu-like symptoms before being taken to the hospital. She died a few days later.

Her remains were buried there due to quarantine restrictions, he said.
MERS-CoV has been giving Saudi health authorities a serious headache since it was first discovered there in 2012.

About half of the 206 victims diagnosed with the viral disease had died, according to the Saudi Ministry of Health.


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