The City Health Office (CHO) is on “alert” status following reports of a mysterious pneumonia-like disease from China that could potentially enter through direct international flights from Hong Kong and Taiwan and other entry points in Palawan.

City health chief Dr. Ricardo Panganiban said Tuesday they have not received any directive yet from the Department of Health (DOH) regarding the mysterious disease that has already sent at least 59 people in hospitals in China due to the severity of their cases, but they have gone on alert since reports came out in the news.

He said the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) was the government agency that was tasked by the DOH to strictly implement the checking of all incoming travelers, especially those manifesting fever or signs of respiratory infection.

Panganiban said their concern in Puerto Princesa is the direct flights from Hong Kong and Taiwan that bring travelers from the affected country.

He said even domestic flights have the potential to bring in passengers from China who might be carrying the disease.

“Wala pang order [sa amin,] pero initially ‘yong BOQ ang inutusan na magbantay sa mga ports and airports natin. Noong napanood ko ang balita, naisip ko kaagad na mayroon tayong direct flights. At kahit nga domestic lang ‘yan kasi baka mamaya galing sila ng China, Hong Kong or kung saan then dumaan sa Manila bago pumunta ng Puerto Princesa ay walang pinagkaiba ‘yon,” he said.

Panganiban said even without the directive from the DOH, the CHO is being pro-active to respond to the situation.

He added they are on standby in case their assistance is needed.

“Kahit naman walang utos sa atin ay ready to respond tayo in case kailanganin ang assistance natin. Magkakatuwang naman d’yan ang BOQ, provincial health, tayo at ang ibang mga ahensya. Sana ma-prevent talaga para hindi na kumalat,” Panganiban said.

“Sa pagkakaalam ko ay viral disease ito na eventually led to pneumonia pero hindi pa naman sigurado ‘yon. Whatever it is, mas maganda na may prevention tayong ginagawa. The CHO is also on alert status naman,” he added.

According to available reports online, the cases may have started in the most populous Wuhan City, the capital of Hubei province in China.

Chinese health authorities still do not know what is causing the outbreak that had already sent 59 residents in hospitals. Seven of the patients are reportedly in serious condition.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have been ruled out as the cause of the mysterious disease.

Reports also claimed that so far, there is no proof that the infection can spread between individuals, but health authorities in China are not taking chances.

The symptoms of the illness are fever and difficulty in breathing.

In a statement earlier this week, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III urged travelers visiting the Philippines from China to be vigilant over the possible flu-like symptoms they may manifest and immediately seek assistance from health personnel stationed in various seaports and airports.

“We urge the public, especially those with history of travel from China, to seek immediate medical consult if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms,” Duque said.