By Analou De Vera
The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday said eight individuals who had close contact with the country’s two confirmed cases of 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) are now being monitored after they exhibited flu-like symptoms.
DOH-Epidemiology Bureau Director Dr. Ferchito Avelino said these people are now included in their list of persons under investigation (PUIs) for the new virus.
Avelino said the eight consist of four hotel staff and four [airplane] passengers, adding that they manifested “fever and cough.”
The health official said they also located 66 other individuals who had close contact with the two confirmed cases. They are not yet identified as PUIs but were advised to do home quarantine.
“Gusto namin linawin na ang home quarantine na sinasabi natin ay ito po ay parang isolation lang din sa loob ng bahay—ibig sabihin wala silang privilege na makipaghalubilo sa miyembro ng kanilang pamilya habang binabantayan po sila sa loob ng 14 days,” Avelino said in a press briefing at the DOH-Central Office in Sta. Cruz, Manila.
(We just want to clarify that home quarantine refers to isolation inside their houses. Meaning, they do not have the privilege of mingling with other members of their family while being monitored for 14 days.)
“It is important therefore that contacts should come forward and inform a health provider and undergo 14 days quarantine, and once they have developed any manifestations of illness, seek medical attention [or] care and inform [their] health provider of their travel and or exposure,” he added.
Health officials assured the public that there is still no local transmission of 2019-nCoV ARD in the country yet.
“It is very clear, and I categorically state, that the two cases are imported cases and the statistics are for China. For us, it is zero local transmission,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
The DOH started conducting the contact tracing last Jan. 30 after they recorded the first confirmed case of nCoV in the country: a 38-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, China.
READ MORE: DOH confirms 1st case of 2019-nCoV in PH
Health officials on Sunday announced that the companion of the first confirmed case–a 44-year-old Chinese man also from Wuhan — was also found positive for nCoV and eventually died at San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
Total number of PUIs
As of Monday, the DOH recorded a total of 80 PUIs for 2019-nCoV since the start of their monitoring.
“Of the 80 PUIs, 67 are currently admitted and isolated, while 10 have been discharged under strict monitoring. DOH has also reported one PUI mortality with a negative result and two confirmed cases with one mortality,” Duque said.
“This substantial increase in the number of PUIs is due to the strengthened surveillance system and contact tracing of the Epidemiology Bureau.”
Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo said the 2019-nCoV confirmatory test on the 44-year-old fatality was performed by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
“He has not been tested previously. This is only from the first test done to him by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine,” he said.
Domingo said the samples of the first confirmed case were sent to the Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia. When asked why the samples of the 44-year-old man were not sent to Australia considering that he was together with the 38-year-old Chinese woman, Domingo said they “prioritized” the latter.
“In the preliminary test, it showed [a] virus that is possibly coronavirus. So it (prioritization) was not based on clinical manifestation. It was based on laboratory results,” Domingo said.
READ MORE: PH reports 1st coronavirus death