(UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines – Doctors at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) advised overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Qatar and Saudi Arabia to observe proper hygiene to prevent contracting a new virus that is similar to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that rocked the world a decade ago.
“We are observing all incoming passengers coming from the Middle East and other parts of the world using our thermal scanners”, NAIA quarantine doctor Caloy dela Reyna said on Wednesday, September 26.
A 49-year-old Qatari national who had traveled to Saudi Arabia was diagnosed with SARS-like virus in Doha on September 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Monday, September 24.
He was later transferred by air ambulance to the United Kingdom, where laboratory tests confirmed the presence of a new strain of the coronavirus.
OFWs should wash their hands with soap regularly and in a clean environment, dela Reyna said. There is “no need to panic,” he added.
The Department of Health (DOH) is closely monitoring the new virus throgh the World Health Organization, according to DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag. But he said there is no need to issue a travel advisory yet.
“There is no travel advisory as the WHO assessment is: There is no risk for international spreak,” Tayag said.
Tayag said the new threat should become an opportunity for health authorities to once again intensify the promotion of personal hygiene particularly proper and regular hand-washing and proper coughing and sneezing manners.
British scientists compared the sequencing of the coronavirus strain obtained from the Qatari with the strain obtained from a 60-year-old Saudi national by Eramus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands.
The strains were 99.5% identical, according to the WHO.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which includes strains that cause the common cold and SARS. – Rappler.com