DOH: Filipino nurse tests negative for MERS

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – After days of further testing and confirmation, the health department on Friday, September 5, said the Filipino nurse who recently came home from Saudi Arabia is negative for the MERS Coronavirus. 

"The good news is it's negative," Department of Health (DOH) Spokesperson Lyndon Lee Suy said in a press briefing Friday.

Both the initial health check in Saudi Arabia and the further testing done by the Philippines' Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) yielded negative results. 

The RITM results came out Thursday evening, September 4. 

Following Friday's announcement, Lee Suy said "all activities for contact-tracing...will be terminated." 

DOH activated an inter-agency task force Tuesday, September 2, after it learned that two nurses who were tested for the MERS Coronavirus in Dammam, Saudi Arabia arrived in the Philippines last August 29. The two are co-workers in a hospital which admitted a MERS-CoV patient.

According to the nurses' supervisor in Saudi Arabia, one of the nurses – a 37-year-old Filipina from General Santos City – tested positive for the virus in Saudi Arabia. (READ: DOH: Filipino nurse with MERS-CoV arrived in PH)

She is currently confined at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City but will be discharged on Friday, Lee Suy said. (READ: FAST FACTS: The MERS Coronavirus)

Still MERS-free

When DOH first received the news, they immediately began tracking down 249 passengers of Saudi Airlines flight SV870, and 143 passengers of Cebu Pacific flight SJ997 – the August 31 flight of the nurse who went back to General Santos City. 

About 70 to 80 co-passengers of the nurse were already tracked by the health department before contact-tracing was terminated Friday.

Lee Suy said the government's response has become more efficient and prompt compared to when they first reported a MERS case last Holy Week. (READ: DOH announces first case of MERS virus infection in PH)

The MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus is a highly fatal, influenza-like illness characterized by fever, cough, and often with diarrhea. 

As of July 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 837 laboratory-confirmed cases of infections, 291 of which resulted in death, worldwide. 

"The Philippines remains to be MERS-CoV free," Lee Suy said. (READ: MERS alert: 11 things OFWs should do– Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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