MANILA (Update) - The Department of Health on Monday confirmed 11 foreigners are being monitored in the Philippines for possible infection from the Wuhan coronavirus.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the 11 are from the following regions: Metro Manila, Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas and Northern Mindanao.
Duque identified their nationalities as Chinese, Brazilian, German and American.
The 11 recently traveled to Wuhan, China, he said, referring to the city where the strain was first detected.
“There are 39 novel coronavirus-related health events that have been reported to the Epidemiology Bureau of the DOH,” he said.
"Eleven of the 39... are considererd patients under investigation.”
The health secretary reiterated there is still no confirmed case of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) in the Philippines. A 5-year-old child suspected to have been infected with nCoV had tested negative, based on tests done by the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Australia.
Duque assured the public that those who are still being monitored are in isolation rooms, while those who tested negative were already discharged or are about to be discharged, including one confined in Aklan.
“There should be no cause for alarm,” Duque said, as he dismissed false information about supposed confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in some hospitals in Metro Manila.
“Let us not be party to the viral spread of infodemic, to the viral spread of false, fake news because this will not do any good,” he said.
Among the symptoms shown by those with the novel coronavirus, a new strain from a family of viruses including the common cold, are fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more advance cases, it can result in pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), kidney failure and death, Duque said.
But, the top health official pointed out that the global fatality rate for nCoV is at 2.7 percent only, which is considered low compared to those related to such other coronavirus strains as the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), that had a fatality rate of 34 to 26 percent, and SARS with a fatality rate of 10 to 12 percent.
The novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans. It belongs to a large family of viruses that includes the common cold but also severe illnesses such as the MERS-CoV and SARS CoV.
It was first observed in December last year and was confirmed as a new coronavirus on January 7. While previously believed to be only transmitted from animal to human, recent cases show human to human transmission.
There are now more than 2,700 cases of the virus infection, most of them in China, where the strain originated.
NO CURE YET
Duque explained that because it is a new strain, “no definitive treatment can be given” to those suspected to have been infected, except supportive care such as the giving of medicine to address symptoms like flu.
"While the development of a vaccine for the nCov is currently underway, it may take months to years before it can be made available for public use," he said.
He also gave reminders on how to avoid contamination of the novel coronavirus and other serious illnesses, such as avoiding physical contact with people and refraining from eating raw meat.
Precautions also include regular washing of hands and other hygienic practices.
Duque said keeping the throat moist by drinking fluids will also help reduce the risk of infection.
Currently, all international borders or ports are on heightened screening, including thermal scanning.
Those who show symptoms of colds or flu, Duque said, are asked to respond to a health declaration checklist that may indicate the possibility of them having contracted the virus. These include whether they have traveled to Wuhan in China, and/or if they came in contact with a person with the virus and/or a health practitioner who treated such patient.
The patients who might have contracted the illness will then be brought to isolation rooms in hospitals, and will be asked to give specimen samples.
The samples are brought to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City to determine the virus strain. If found positive for non-specific pan-coronavirus, the samples are sent to Australia for confirmatory test.
Duque said specimen of 7 patients are still being tested by the RITM, the results of which are expected within 24 to 48 hours.
He said they are expecting to receive primers from Japan. "The primer is a part of the identification. This is like a tool with a re-agent to identify whether the novel coronavirus or the suspect coronavirus found here is exactly the same as the one in Wuhan, China," he explained.