DOH on the lookout for SARS-like virus
The DOH reminds hospitals to report unusual pneumonia cases amid a new potentially fatal virus

REPORT CASES. Health Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag again asks hospitals to report unusual cases of pneumonia amid the rise in infections of a SARS-like virus abroad. File photo from the DOH's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – The health department reminded hospitals to report unusual cases of pneumonia amid a new infection of a potentially fatal virus abroad.

Health Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag called on hospitals nationwide to send reports of “unusual and grave cases of pneumonia.”

On Friday, February 15, Tayag reiterated a previous directive of the Department of Health (DOH) after another confirmed case of infection of the novel coronavirus (NCoV) recorded in the United Kingdom this week.

The latest infection is the 11th confirmed case of NCoV around the world. Five of the 11 resulted to deaths in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

The Guardian reported that infected patients suffer serious respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties.

The DOH has not recorded any case of NCoV in the Philippines.

“We again call on hospitals that if they have patients in intensive care units with severe pneumonia but test negative for influenza, virus and bacteria to please report this to us,” Tayag said in an interview.

NCoV is compared to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS, which killed about 800 people in an outbreak in 2003. Close person-to-person contact with an infected person caused the spread of SARS.

Yet the World Health Organization (WHO) said NCoV is not as contagious as SARS.

“Although this case is suggestive of person-to-person transmission, on the basis of current evidence, the risk of sustained person-to-person transmission appears to be very low,” the WHO said in a February 13 update.

Tayag’s directive comes as the WHO encouraged member states to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections, and “to carefully review any unusual patterns.”

NCoV was first identified in September 2012 in a patient in Saudi Arabia who later died. Other infections were recorded in Jordan, the United Kingdom, and Germany, with health officials linking the contraction to travel in the Middle East and Pakistan.

Tayag said, “The WHO alerted all countries to be on the lookout for cases. We cannot say that the virus began in Saudi Arabia. It may have already spread in other parts of the country but has not yet been detected.”

Tayag added that health officials worldwide are still studying the latest NCoV infection.

British health officials said it is the strongest evidence yet that the virus can spread from person to person because the patient had no recent travel history to the Middle East or anywhere outside the UK. 

“This new virus is still being studied because the patient had no animal exposure. That’s why they are looking for additional cases to know if there is a link to animals,” Tayag said. – 

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