A FIVE-YEAR-OLD child who traveled from Wuhan, China has tested positive for a non-specific pancoronavirus and is currently admitted in a hospital in Cebu City.
As of Tuesday, January 21, the Department of Health (DOH) said the child was still experiencing cough but was "stable and afebrile".
Samples taken from the child have been sent to Australia to determine the coronavirus strain amid the outbreak of a new strain called the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan, China.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, in a statement, urged all health workers to be vigilant while the Bureau of Quarantine is working with airlines and airport authorities to strengthen border surveillance.
“I encourage the health workers to be vigilant and take extra precautionary measures when in contact with patients with acute respiratory infection, especially those with travel history to China,” Duque said.
Travelers with symptoms of respiratory illness are advised to seek medical attention immediately.
“I urge travelers with symptoms of respiratory illness, either during or after travel, to seek medical attention immediately. I also call on our health facilities to enhance standard infection prevention and control practices, especially in our emergency departments. We must always be ready,” Duque added.
The child was brought to a hospital for manifesting fever, throat irritation, and cough prior to entering the Philippines.
Samples from the patient were first tested at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and were found negative for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (Mers-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (Sars-CoV).
"However, the samples tested positive for the non-specific pancoronavirus assay, thus the specimen has been sent to Australia to identify the specific coronavirus strain," the DOH said in a statement.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to more serious infections such as Mers-CoV and Sars-CoV. Common signs of coronavirus infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
The new coronavirus strain, which officials described as 80 percent similar to Sars-CoV, was reported in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019.
Officials have reported three deaths and over 200 cases, which are expected to rise further as travel peaks during the Chinese New Year. Similar cases have also been reported in Beijing and Shenzhen cities in China as well as in Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.
In the same statement, the DOH said it was also monitoring three individuals who showed flu-like symptoms upon arrival at the Kalibo International Airport from China.
The three individuals, who have no history of travel to Wuhan and have had no contact with any confirmed 2019-nCoV case, were allowed to proceed to Boracay.
"All three cases are currently well and are no longer manifesting any symptoms," the DOH said. Throat samples from these patients were already sent to RITM for testing.
Initially, the said disease was thought to be transmitted through animal contact but recent reports show human-to-human transmission.
DOH said it is also enhancing its coronavirus laboratory testing capacity, hospital preparedness, rapid response, and its risk communication and information dissemination.
It is also closely monitoring individuals who manifested signs of respiratory infection and had a history of travel to China and is coordinating with the World Health Organization (WHO) and China Center for Disease Control for updates.
DOH advises the public to practice frequent handwashing, avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals, practice proper cough etiquette – maintain distance and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of your elbow, avoid close contact with people showing cold or flu-like symptoms, and ensure that food is well-cooked. (SunStar Philippines)