THE five-year-old Chinese national in Cebu who was being observed by health officials for showing signs of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was found negative of the deadly disease that has affected Wuhan, China.
In a Facebook post, the World Health Organization (WHO) said test results from a laboratory in Australia where the child’s swab samples were sent showed that the young patient had not contracted the 2019-nCoV.
The child from Wuhan, China travelled to Cebu with his mother on Jan. 12, 2020 via the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA). He was immediately brought to a hospital three hours upon arrival for experiencing respiratory symptoms.
The confirmatory test results from Australia finally put to rest days of jitters over a possible case of 2019 n-Cov entering the Philippines.
“This means that the Philippines continues to have no confirmed case of 2019-nCoV. However, it is likely that we will see more cases in China and in other countries in coming days and weeks,” the WHO said, in a statement.
The Department of Health (DOH) is also currently investigating its second suspected case of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines -- a 36-year-old man in Tacloban City, who worked in Wuhan, China, who has manifested symptoms of respiratory infection.
“We have another person under investigation in Tacloban City. He has a history of travel to Wuhan, China and then he came home with cough and colds and fever,” said DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo in an interview.
The 2019-nCoV originated at a seafood market in Wuhan in central China. Reports said over 800 people have been infected and at least 26 have died in China since the virus was first reported on Dec. 31, 2019.
Domingo said the second patient arrived in the country on Jan. 17 or 18. His condition is stable but he remains in isolation at a local health facility.
The patient’s close contacts are under home quarantine although they have not manifested any symptoms of the virus.
Unlike the five-year-old child in Cebu, the man from Tacloban has yet to be tested for any virus.
“The one in Tacloban is a suspected case because he has yet to have a positive test for the pancoronavirus. We will just do the test. We have not yet reached the level that he is a probable case,” he explained.
The Cebu patient first tested positive for a non-specific pancoronavirus on Jan. 12, 2020 after samples were taken by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). A second swab test, however, yielded negative results on Jan. 18.
The child remained as a “person under investigation” until confirmatory results arrived from Australia to determine if what the child had was the novel 2019-nCoV.
WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in his Jan. 23 statement on 2019-nCoV, said he is not declaring a public health emergency of international concern today.
Ghebreyesus does not recommend any broader restrictions on travel or trade. Instead, he recommended exit screening at airports as part of a comprehensive set of containment measures.
“Make no mistake. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one,” reads a portion of his statement posted on WHO’s official website.
All of the deaths have been reported in China, with other cases reported in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the United States of America and Vietnam.
He said most of those who have died had underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease that weakened their immune systems.
In Cebu, travelers from all incoming flights from China undergo thermal scanning twice. Aside from the thermal cameras placed near the immigration desks, handheld thermal scanners are also used to check the temperature of the travelers at the aerobridges.
A standard-flight announcement prior to landing at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) also advises passengers experiencing flu-like symptoms to declare themselves and voluntarily submit to medical screening by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) upon disembarkation.
Terence Anthony Bermejo, BOQ 7 chief, said quarantine protocols are religiously done not only at MCIA but also at the Cebu International Port (CIP) for international cargoes and the vessels’ crew members especially those coming from China.
“We have the handheld thermal scanners. Our nurses and doctors muster the vessel’s crew to get the temperature of everybody on board just before they can disembark. We are the first ones to board the international vessels before the personnel of the immigration and the customs,” Bermejo said in Cebuano.
There are no thermal scanners in domestic seaports but Bermejo said BOQ 7 will put up tarpaulins in strategic areas to inform people about 2019-nCoV.
He said the primary focus for now is to ensure that those suspected of contracting the disease or those exhibiting flu-like symptoms are screened at international airports.
Meanwhile, local authorities are taking measures to guard against coronavirus.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said she will meet with the Provincial Health Office (PHO), DOH and port authorities on Monday, Jan. 27 to see what other actions can be undertaken given the limitations with regard to the prevention of tourists’ entry.
Garcia said she wants to discuss with MCIA officials steps to strengthen preventive measures against the disease while giving consideration to the country’s international relations.
PHO chief Christina Giango asked the public to visit their local health office should they manifest common signs of coronavirus infection such as respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
“Just a reminder that coronavirus has a spectrum. There’s the milder version such as common colds and the intense versions like Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (Mers-CoV) and Sars-CoV. Don’t panic, but visit your physician or local health center to make sure,” she said.
Giango said they are also intensifying their surveillance and are working closely with DOH.
For his part, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella told the barangay captains of the City’s 80 barangays to closely monitor their respective areas and to immediately report to the City Government any resident manifesting symptoms of coronavirus.
In Mandaue City, the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (DRRMO) asked all the schools within the city to monitor their students.
Felix Suico Jr., DRRMO chief of operations, said they informed the doctors and nurses of each school about the symptoms associated with coronavirus while some of the students from the various schools in Mandaue were advised by their teachers to wear a mask.
Suico also reminded the responders to wear protective gear like masks and gloves when responding to patients as part of precautionary measures to avoid being infected with the virus.
There are seven known strains of human coronaviruses. They are the human coronavirus 229E, human coronavirus OC43, Sars-CoV, human coronavirus NL63, human coronavirus HKU1, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (Mers-CoV), and the latest - the Wuhan coronavirus or the 2019-nCov. (JKV, HDT, WBS, RTF, JJL, KFD, LMY / SunStar Philippines)