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MERS-positive man arrives from Saudi

A FOREIGNER who flew to the Philippines from the Middle East has become the second confirmed case of MERS in the country, the Health Department said Monday as a deadly outbreak in South Korea spread alarm across Asia.

The 36-year-old male patient, whose nationality was not disclosed, has been put in isolation at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Mandaluyong City to contain the Corona virus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Health Secretary Janette Garin said.

MERS scare. Store clerks of Duty Free Philippines at the Ninoy Aquino
International Airport wear masks to avoid contracting the
MERS-Coronavirus from arriving passengers. Rudy C. Santos
“We can see he is getting better,” Garin told a news conference, adding the man had a “low viral load” indicating his infection was not extremely serious.

“There is no reason to panic and we appeal to the public to respect the privacy of the patient.”

The man fell ill on July 2, having earlier arrived in the country from Saudi Arabia by way of Dubai, she said, declining to give more details.

A Filipina nurse who returned from Saudi Arabia in February became the first person in the Philippines to test positive for MERS but she later recovered.

Although Garin said there had been no cases of MERS infection through casual contact in the Philippines, the Health Department was tracing people who may have had contact with the patient.

They include about 200 passengers who were on the same flight as the infected man, Garin said.

The Health Department has been on alert in recent weeks for the possible entry of the virus, particularly among the 88,000 South Koreans living in the country.

Health authorities earlier examined three South Korean expatriates who developed respiratory ailments, but all tested negative for MERS, department spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy said.

Suy said the second MERS victim did not exhibit the usual symptoms of the illness when he entered the Philippines, which explains why the thermal scanners at the airport did not raise an alarm.

MERS, which has a fatality rate of about 30 percent, is an influenza-like illness characterized by fever, cough and shortness of breath, often with diarrhea.

In the Palace, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the tightening of surveillance and quarantine measures at all ports of entry.

At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, employees of the Duty Free Philippines began wearing protective masks as a precaution against MERS, following the example of Immigration and Customs personnel.

“We are also front-liners like the Immigration officers and the Customs examiners who deal with in-coming passengers from around the world,” said Rogelio Malate, who works at Duty Free Philippines.

In South Korea, which is suffering the worst outbreak of MERS outside Saudi Arabia, 185 people have been diagnosed with the disease with 33 fatalities, the government there said.

Of those infected, 41 remain hospitalized, with 11 in a critical condition.

Elsewhere in Asia, Malaysia reported a case before the South Korean outbreak in May, while China reported a person with MERS who had travelled to the country after recent exposure in South Korea, the World Health Organization said.

As of June 2015, WHO listed 1,338 laboratory-confirmed cases since 2012 in 26 countries, including 475 deaths.

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