Travelers will face tighter screening following reports that Chinese authorities are investigating a “mysterious illness” amid concerns that the flu-like virus is linked to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the Department of Health (DOH) said on Sunday.

In a statement, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said he has instructed the Bureau of Quarantine to intensify the screening of all incoming travelers, especially those who showed signs of “fever or signs of respiratory infection.”

Citing reports, Duque said an outbreak of a mysterious illness has affected 44 individuals in China.

The said disease is similar to “viral pneumonia of unknown origin,” he added.

Duque also urged travelers experiencing the symptoms, especially those who came from China, to get screened immediately.

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

He also urged the public to practice proper hygiene such as frequent hand-washing and wearing of masks in crowded places among others.

“Let us also embrace healthy lifestyle, practice proper hand hygiene, and observe cough etiquette to prevent transmission of respiratory infections,” he added.

In an interview over ANC, DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo assured that all airports and seaports have quarantine officers on guard.

“We’re really just being very, very careful right now in the Philippines. That’s why we put our Bureau of Quarantine on alert. We just have to take a good look of if,” Domingo said.
“All of our ports of entry have our quarantine officers,” he added.

“It’s very similar to any kind of flu. However, this one there was clustering in this province in China. All the people who had it, when they were tested, did not test positive for any regular kind of flu virus. So it’s something new,” Domingo explained.

He, however, clarified that flu shots could only help prevent infection and severe outcomes caused by influenza viruses, and not the mysterious new illness.

“A flu shot will help you on the virus strain that the flu shot is created for which is probably not this virus because this virus until now, has not been identified. There’s no flu shot against it but it will protect you from the currently circulating flu virus,” he added.

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