Philippines confirms 3rd case of novel coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines (6th UPDATE) – The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday, February 5, reported the Philippines’ 3rd confirmed case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said that a 60-year-old woman from Wuhan, China, tested postive for 2019-nCoV. She traveled from Wuhan through Hong Kong and arrived in Cebu on January 20, and headed directly  to Bohol.

Domingo said that on January 22, the woman consulted a private hospital after developing fever and colds, and was admitted to a  hospital in Bohol.

Several samples were taken from the woman on January 23 and January 24. The latter samples were sent to the Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory in Australia and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

Domingo said that the Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory sent back the test results on the January 24 samples on January 29, and RITM on January 30 – both came out negative.

With her test result for 2019-nCoV negative, the woman was discharged from the hospital 9 days after admission and was allowed to travel back to China on January 31.

Domingo said that the RITM later ran tests on the first sample taken from the woman on January 23 after it became capable of testing samples for 2019-nCoV. 

Domingo said that on February 3, RITM notified the DOH that the January 23 samples tested positive for 2019-nCoV. This showed that the woman was able to mount immunity against the virus by the time the January 24 samples were taken. 

Asked why it took the DOH two days to report the third confirmed case, Domingo said: "We found out evening of February 3, and yesterday we were at the Senate. As you well know, the secretary was there the whole day, so we couldn’t have a press conference yesterday." 

He added that the the DOH's regional office in Central Visayas was immediately notified and that they were able to begin contact tracing on Tuesday, February 4.

"Before we announce it, we make sure the regional office and the local government units already know," Domingo said.

The first two 2019-nCoV cases in the country were a couple who traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak. The man died on February 1, the first death due to the virus outside China.

133 cases probed

The DOH said it is now probing a total of 133 patients for 2019-nCoV. 

As of February 5, 115 patients are admitted to hospitals, while 16 were discharged but were being contacted by DOH surveillance officers daily for updates on their symptoms. Two patients under investigation have died, one of whom tested negative for the virus and died due to other complications.

The DOH added that 63 of the patients under investigation are Filipinos, 54 are Chinese, and 16 other foreign nationals. Of this number, 32 traveled from Wuhan, China, while others came from Hong Kong and other parts of China.

The DOH also confirmed that health workers are included in the 54 Filipino patients under investigation. 

Here is the breakdown of suspected cases per region:

Meanwhile, a Canadian who was quarantined in Bacolod City for suspected symptoms of novel coronavirus tested negative, according to Dr Julius Drilon, medical center chief of Corazan Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH), on Wednesday, February 5.

Drilon said the 43-year-old patient, who came from Taiwan, tested negative in the confirmatory test conducted by the RITM.

He said the patient was set to be discharged from the government hospital.

Drilon added that two more persons under investigation were still confined at the hospital's Emerging Infectious Disease Facility, awaiting for the laboratory results from RITM.

In a statement, AirAsia said it was working closely with the government, especially the DOH, after it was confirmed that the Philippines’ 3rd case of 2019-nCoV took an AirAsia flight from Cebu  to Shenzhen, China, on January 31.

“AirAsia is ready and willing to provide relevant documents to the DOH, including the flight manifest and available contact details of guests on board the flight, given the urgency of this situation. The operating flight crew have also been quarantined in compliance with the Philippine government’s travel ban,” it said.

“All AirAsia aircraft undergo disinfection procedures according to prescribed protocol,” the airline added. 

AirAsia urged passengers of flight Z2 7800, which left Cebu for Shenzhen at 11:35 am on January 31, to seek medical attention if they feel unwell.

Following the government directive, the airline has cancelled its flights between the Philippines and China, Hong Kong, and Macao.

Globally, the virus has so far killed 492, mostly in China, and infected 23,939 in 25 countries: China, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, Germany, the US, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, France, United Arab Emirates, Canada, India, Italy, Russia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Nepal, Cambodia, Spain, Finland, Sweden, and Sri Lanka.

In the Philippines, the government prohibited travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau from entering the country. With reports from Marchel Espina/Rappler.com