DOH confirms local transmission of UK variant in Bontoc, Mt Province
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed a local transmission of the more contagious variant of Covid-19 in Bontoc, Mountain Province following the detection of 12 cases in the town.
“The Department of Health confirms local transmission in Bontoc of the B117 variant of SARS-CoV-2 as identified through genomic sequencing,” the DOH said in a statement Monday night.
The DOH said that “to date, all identified cases with the UK variant can be epidemiologically linked to cases coming directly from outside the country (importation) or from specific cases or exposures that can still be identified (local transmission).”
However, the health department said it found no strong evidence of community transmission of the Covid-19 mutation in Bontoc.
The World Health Organization has laid down the following criteria for community transmission of Covid-19: appearance of large number of cases, occurrence of case clusters in multiple areas, and inability to link cases to known sources of infection.
Profile of cases
Of the 12 patients in Bontoc, seven were males, and five were females, while three of them are children aged 5, 6, and 10 years. Eleven of these cases came from Barangay Samoki.
The case clustering in Barangay Samoki was previously reported to have begun with a returning overseas Filipino (ROF) who came from the United Kingdom and traveled to Bontoc with his wife through a private vehicle after testing negative for Covid-19 upon arrival to the Philippines.
The ROF experienced “abdominal symptoms” which prompted his subsequent swab test that turned positive for Covid-19. However, the DOH clarified that his sample that was submitted for genome sequencing was negative for the B117 variant.
UK variant patient’s close contacts
Health authorities have identified 46 Covid-19 positive close contacts who were linked to the traveler from the UK. Of the 46, 12 were positive for the B117 variant, six were negative for the variant, and the specimen of the 28 will still have to undergo genome sequencing.
“While we have identified linkages of cases to the traveler from the UK, said traveler was negative for the B117 variant and his wife was negative on PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test,” the DOH noted.
“Thus, the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit and local government unit are currently backward tracing exposures and travel histories of cases to identify other possible source/s of infection,” it added.
Authorities are also interviewing other ROFs who recently arrived in Bontoc to determine their health, laboratory, and quarantine status.
The DOH said there is an ongoing contact tracing of contacts up to the third generation for the B117 variant cases.
“Samples from contacts not tested or negative on first test are being collected for PCR testing and sequencing, for eligible samples,” it added.
The DOH reminded the public that the new variant, first reported in the United Kingdom, “has evidence for increased transmissibility, but not increased severity or fatality.”
The 12 cases of the Covid-19 variant in Bontoc are among the 17 confirmed cases of the variant in the country so far.
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