MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Filipino health worker who tested positive for the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus has arrived home from the United Arab Emirates, Philippine officials said Wednesday. It’s the first known case of the deadly virus in the country.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the Filipino’s blood tested positive but he has no symptoms of the disease. He has been isolated and people who were in contact with him are being traced and quarantined.
Also on Wednesday, Malaysian authorities confirmed the first MERS virus death in Malaysia.
Ona said the Philippine man had personal contact with another Filipino hospital worker who died of the virus in the UAE last week. Blood test results in the UAE were released after he arrived in the Philippines with his family, and authorities immediately informed the Philippine Embassy.
Health Undersecretary Ted Herbosa said officials are also tracing the plane passengers who were seated near the Filipino during the flight to Manila.
The health department said it is sending an epidemiology expert and an infectious disease specialist to UAE after the death of the Filipino there and reports that six other Filipinos were found to have the virus.
MERS belongs to a family of viruses that includes both the common cold and SARS, which killed some 800 people in a global outbreak in 2003. It can cause fever, breathing problems, pneumonia and kidney failure. It was first identified in 2012 in the Middle East, where most cases since have been diagnosed.
Globally, the World Health Organization said it has been informed of 238 laboratory-confirmed cases, including 92 deaths, since September 2012.
While MERS does not seem to spread as quickly between people as SARS did, it appears to be more deadly.