DOH: Patient at RITM tests negative for MERS

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) announced on Wednesday night, February 20, that the patient suspected to have MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus tested negative for the virus.

DOH Calabarzon Regional Director Eduardo Janairo confirmed this in a text message to Rappler. He said: "Negative. We are now determining the cause of pneumonia if ever."

With the latest announcement, Health Secretary Duque said the Philippines remains MERS-free. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the DOH said it was monitoring a patient from Laguna suspected to have MERS. Reports of the suspected case surfaced after the Laguna Doctors Hospital said it carried out a thorough cleaning of its emergency room due to a patient suspected to be afflicted with the disease.

Janairo said the patient arrived from Saudi Arabia last Thursday, February 14. Though he did not test positive for MERS, Janairo said the patient is still under observation and will stay at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

MERS is a highly fatal, influenza-like illness characterized by fever, cough, and often with diarrhea. (READ: FAST FACTS: The MERS Coronavirus)

According to the World Health Organization, the illness does not "pass easily" from person to person unless there is close contact. For instance, the virus may be passed through caring for or living with an infected person.

The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention also said MERS likely spreads from an infected person’s respiratory secretions, such as through coughing.

The Philippines has so far had a total of at least 3 confirmed MERS cases in the past. These include an overseas Filipino worker who came home in 2014, a Filipina nurse who came home from Saudi Arabia in 2015, and a foreigner who came to the country the same year. –

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at