Coronavirus scare prompts tight screening for Boracay-bound tourists as 3 Chinese show flu symptoms
ILOILO CITY—Blood and saliva were taken from three Chinese tourists bound for Boracay Island for tests after they showed flu-like symptoms that alerted health authorities who are on the frontlines of efforts to prevent the entry into the Philippines of a deadly coronavirus strain that emanated from China.
Dr. Cornelio Cuachon Jr., Aklan provincial health officer, denied, however, that the three were quarantined as erroneously reported by other media outlets.
An international alert is up for the coronavirus which causes pneumonia and death and which was first reported in Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province.
“We just took samples from them and they were allowed to proceed to Boracay. They were all outpatients,” Cuachon told the INQUIRER.
He said the three tourists had “mild” cases of fever, colds and cough.
Quarantine involved the restriction of movement of persons and goods to prevent the spread of human, animal or plant diseases.
A 29-year-old woman was referred to the Dr. Rafael S. Tumbukon Memorial Hospital, the provincial hospital of Aklan, for medical tests on Jan. 17 by staff of the Bureau of Quarantine at the Kalibo International Airport (KIA).
She had to stay overnight at the hospital after arriving at 9 p.m. before proceeding to Boracay on Jan. 18, according to Cuachon.
On Jan. 18, a three-year-old girl, also a Chinese national, was brought to the hospital and tested before being released.
On Monday (Jan. 20), a 65-year-old man from China was also referred to the hospital for tests.
Cuachon said the blood and saliva samples would be sent to the Department of Health office in Iloilo City and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila before it is determined whether the tourists were coronavirus carriers.
Dr. Marlyn Convocar, DOH Western Visayas director, said health officials were still validating reports about the three tourists.
“We have not yet received a formal report from the provincial health office,” Concovar said.
The process of validation, she said, would require that the regional DOH office first meet with provincial health officials, officials of the provincial hospital and Bureau of Quarantine.
Health surveillance has been heightened at the KIA, gateway to Boracay, early this year as the airport caters to international flights.
The KIA services planes carrying mainly tourists bound for Boracay Island with Chinese tourists recording the highest number of visitors among foreign guests.
According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus belongs to “a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.”
These more severe diseases included the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and the deadlier Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, the WHO said.
It said common symptoms included fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulty.
“In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death,” according to a WHO advisory.
Edited by TSB
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