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WHO: MERS-Cov has not mutated, but Korea outbreak seen to worsen

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it expects the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-Cov) in South Korea to worsen before it gets better due to the number of people who were exposed to the infection.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security Dr. Keiji Fukuda disclosed it may take some time to completely contain the outbreak since the first MERS-Cov-infected Korean, a businessman, who arrived from the Middle East last May 20, visited several clinics before he was finally confined after being diagnosed with the disease.

He said this was exacerbated by the inability of South Korean doctors to detect MERS-Cov, the overcrowding in emergency rooms in medical facilities, the number of visitors of the afflicted patients, and the practice of “doctor shopping” wherein patients consult multiple doctors.

“The size and complexity of the outbreak means it will be a number of weeks before the true impact of the stronger disease control measures will be seen,” said Fukuda, who also co-led the team of experts from South Korea and the South Korean government that is studying the outbreak.

He, however, said he is confident the compliance of the South Korean government to the recommendations of WHO will effectively stop the possible spread of the MERS-Cov to communities.

NO MUTATION – WHO

Based on the study of WHO, the MERS-Cov outbreak in South Korea has not mutated into a more transmissible variety and is currently restricted within medical facilities.

Among the recommendations made by WHO was the immediate contact tracing of the people, who may have been exposed to MERS-Cov, isolation and monitoring of the suspected cases, and implementation of the measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

As of last Saturday, MERS-Cov has already killed 14 people and infected 138 others in South Korea making it the biggest outbreak of the disease of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where it was first recorded in 2012.

WHO said it will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow (June 16) to discuss the developments on the outbreak of the MERS-Cov in South Korea.

MERS-Cov is a still an incurable viral disease which causes flu-like symptoms like cough and fever.

PH IS MERS-COV-READY

Here at home, the government said it is ready to thwart any spread of the MERS-Cov in the country, but it cannot do the job alone.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. admitted that the government would need the help from private hospitals to address any medical emergency in the country.

“Hindi po nilubayan ng DOH ang kanilang paghahanda simula pa ‘nung Abril noong isang taon ‘nung una itong mapabalitang nagkaroon ng manifestation sa Middle East. Kaya makatitiyak po ang ating mga mamamayan na ginagawa at gagawin ng ating pamahalaan ang lahat ng nararapat (The Department of Health is not easing up its preparations since April last year when it was first reported in the Middle East. The public can be assured the government is doing everything it can to address this),” Coloma said over government radio, citing the government’s ability to conduct contact tracing and other precautions against illnesses emanating abroad.

“On the part of the private hospitals, they should remain alert and coordinate closely with the Department of Health (DOH). This requires team effort,” he said in Filipino.

OFW WITH MERS-COV

Coloma said both the DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) are closely monitoring the health situation in the Middle East especially after a Filipino was reportedly infected by MERS-Cov. He said the health department has already deployed a team to monitor the situation of Filipinos in the affected countries.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said it is looking into the possibility of extending assistance to the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

In a text message to the Manila Bulletin yesterday, OWWA Administrator Rebecca Calzado said her people are now coordinating with the DFA to get the identity of the MERS-Cov-afflicted OFW.

“As soon as DFA verifies report and names the OFW, OWWA will check the (OFW’s) membership status and possible benefits. Welfare assistance and coordination with NOK (next-of-kin) will likewise be done as necessary,” Calzado said.

She said the government will provide the necessary aid to the still unidentified OFW depending on his OWWA membership status.  (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)

source: Manila Bulletin

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