Coron health authorities are monitoring a female foreign national with a history of travel from Wuhan, China who is experiencing flu-like symptoms in relation to novel coronavirus (nCov).
Municipal health officer Dr. Allan Guintapan told Palawan News on Thursday that the foreigner sought the assistance of a private doctor for the treatment of her sore throat.
“Isa lang ‘yong pasyente na may flu-like symptoms. ‘Yong pasyente na ‘yan na tiningnan ng isang private physician, hanggang ngayon ay hinahanap ko pa kasi nasa labas pa sila. Kanina nasa hotel ako pero wala sila. Babalikan ko mamaya para makita siya. Hindi kasi na-refer sa proper authorities,” Guintapan said.
Guintapan said as soon as she is found, she will be subjected to laboratory tests before anything is confirmed.
As of press time, Guintapan said the patient’s case is “unverified”.
“Walang kaakibat pang laboratory kaya for further investigation kasi kailangan nating malaman ‘yong mga detalye gaya ng ilang araw na siya sa Pilipinas, kailan siya nag-travel sa China, kailan siya dumating, kailan nag-umpisa ‘yong sintomas para ma-corellate natin doon sa incubation period ng novel coronavirus,” Guintapan said.
He said they cannot contain the information from coming out, but assured the public that they are investigating and are ready with handling procedures, including an isolation room, just in case.
Guintapan did not identify the nationality of the female foreigner, but a post by Dr. Ramon Martin Jugo Alleje circulating on Facebook since January 22 claimed she is Russian accompanied by another foreign national who looks Asian.
“Yong sabi noong private practitioner, ‘yong isa lang ang may sakit, ‘yong isa naman wala. ‘Yon nga lang wala pa kaming makuhang ibang detalye para makumpleto agad ‘yong epidemiological report. Kaya hindi natin agad masasabi na siya ay may nCov,” he explained.
“Walang dapat ikabahala kasi may response procedure na kami just in case at may isolation room na rin na nakahanda,” Guintapan added.
Guintapan said he hopes people will allow them to follow protocols before any confirmation is made in order not to cause undue alarm.
In any case, proper hygiene should be made a lifestyle by Coronians to prevent contracting viruses, not just the nCov.
He said the laboratory test that will be conducted on the foreign national will be sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for validation.
He said they have already posted three personnel at the Francisco B. Reyes Airport in Busuanga equipped with an infrared thermometer or a temperature gun.
“Starting tomorrow, January 24, meron ng tatlo kaming staff doon na gagamit ng temperature gun kasi wala pa tayong thermal scanner. If ever na may mag-positive, may standby ambulance kami at may isolation room na rin sa ospital,” he said.
MIMAROPA remains nCov-free
DOH regional director Dr. Mario Baquilod, when sought for comment by Palawan News regarding the matter, said he has received a report from the Coron municipal health office, but the case remains “unverified”.
He said they have already instructed the local health officials in the town to closely monitor all suspected patients and isolate them for investigation.
“Yes, we received the report but it’s still suspected. We have already issued an order na kapag may mga suspected patient ay i-isolate kaagad. We want to prevent na makapasok dito sa atin kaya kahit symptoms lang siya ng normal na trangkaso or anong sakit ay dapat bantayan ng husto,” he said.
He said they have already coordinated with the administrators of all airports and seaports in the region to step up their monitoring against the nCov to prevent affectation.
Baquilod said although the nCov has no vaccine, there are ways to prevent the risk of infection and that is making proper hygiene a way of life.
“Although there are currently no vaccines available against this new strain of coronavirus, there are ways to prevent the risk of infection — regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, keeping the immune system strong, and avoiding close contact with people showing colds or flu-like symptoms,” he said.
In the province, he said he has visited the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) and the Puerto Princesa City International Airport (PPCIA) to discuss response protocols in case of a possible worst scenario.
He said the PPCIA already has infrared thermometers but will make recommendations for the procurement of additional units.
“Bumisita ako kanina sa airport ng Puerto Princesa at nakita ko na may isang thermal scanner pero siguro I will recommend na madagdagan pa. Ang ONP naman ready na ang mga facilities nila. We have already coordinated sa mga agencies such as Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), we are an alert as always,” Baquilod said.
Airport contingency plans vs nCov
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) local manager Efren Nagrama, meanwhile, said Thursday that a meeting with the DOH, the BOQ, and airline representatives will be done on January 24 to discuss contingency plans to prevent the entry of nCov through the PPCIA.
So far, no passenger has been detected with flu-like symptoms related to the novel coronavirus.
“Walang reported na ganoon sa atin. Kahit ‘yong mga tao natin sa frontline kahit sa Bureau of Quarantine who are in charge of monitoring this, wala silang reported na ganyan pa. Sana naman wala na,” he said.
He said the meeting that will be conducted with concerned agencies will reactivate the protocols of the BOQ, such as the measures to isolate suspected patients and their transfer to isolation facilities.
Nagrama said there is a need to refresh everyone on following certain protocols when there are challenges like the nCov.
“May protocol kasi d’yan ang ating airport na pini-perform ng ating Bureau of Quarantine. Lahat ng mga airport natin. Ipi-perform kung anong protocol natin sa ganyang situation, ang bukas na pagmi-meetingan ay para i-refresh at saka ano ba ‘yong role and awareness na kailangan malaman ng ibang partner agencies lalo na ‘yong mga frontliners,” he said.
“Linawin ko lang may mga contingency plans na in place about dyan kasi noong una pa lang noong lumabas ‘yong about SARS, meron na, gumawa na ‘yong mga agencies concerned kung paano ipatutupad ‘yon especially sa may aiport,” Nagrama added.