By Betheena Kae Unite
The Department of Health said Tuesday that it is investigating a suspected case of 2019-novel corona virus (2019-nCov) involving a Chinese boy from Wuhan, China, who arrived into the country last week, for manifesting common symptoms of the disease.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said samples from the five-year-old child, who is now being isolated in a hospital in Cebu City, “yielded negative results for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS-CoV).”
The samples, however, tested positive for the non-specific pancoronavirus, which at present remained unidentified. The specimen, Duque said, has been sent to Victorian Infectious Diseases References Laboratory in Australia to identify the specific coronavirus strain.
The results will be out after 24 hours, the secretary said.
“In simple words, the test shows that there is a coronavirus, but it’s not SARS and not MERS-Cov. We still do not know what it is, so we have to send it to Australia to know if it is identical to the 2019-nCoV,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said.
The child, who arrived in Cebu City last Jan. 12 with his mother to attend to documents on his education, manifested fever, throat irritation, and cough before entering the Philippines.
“The patient as of today is experiencing cough but is currently stable and afebrile,” Duque said.
Contact tracing was also conducted on all passengers seated four seats away from the child during their trip to Cebu. None of them showed symptoms.
Throat samples from three Chinese patients, who earlier manifested flu-like symptoms upon arriving at the Kalibo International Airport, were sent to the Research Institute Tropical Medicine (RITM) for testing. All three cases are currently well and are no longer manifesting any symptoms, Duque said.
On Dec. 31, 2019, a clustering of pneumonia cases of unknown etiology was reported in Wuhan, China. The outbreak was later determined to be caused by a new coronavirus strain dubbed 2019-nCov, a strain that has not been previously identified in humans. As of present, 222 cases were reported in China while four confirmed cases from Thailand, Japan, and South Korea were reported.
The health agency said “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from common cold to more serious infections such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.
“Common signs of coronavirus infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.”
While tests are being done to identify which specific virus is present in the samples from the five-year-old child, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised the public to refrain from being anxious about the disease.
“We have to recognize that the testing is not widely available this time, we are working with the RITM to fill the capacity, so at this point of time don’t be anxious unless you have traveled to Wuhan,” WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said.
The health experts said that while “there are still a lot of things we don’t know about the virus,” the public is urged to practice proper hygiene and proper cough etiquette all the time.
“I urge travelers with symptoms of respiratory illness, either during or after travel, to seek medical attention immediately. I also call on our health facilities to enhance standard infection prevention and control practices, especially in our emergency departments. We must always be ready,” Duque said.