The Philippine health department has been on alert in recent weeks for the possible entry of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus, particularly among the 88,000 South Koreans living in the country. As the deadly outbreak in South Korea spreads alarm across Asia, health authorities revealed that a foreigner who flew to the Philippines from the Middle East has become the second confirmed case of MERS in the country.
Health Secretary Janette Garin said, "The 36-year-old male patient, whose nationality was not disclosed, has been put in isolation at a government facility to contain the virus. We can see he is getting better. The man had a low viral load indicating his infection was not extremely serious. There is no reason to panic and we appeal to the public to respect the privacy of the patient. The man fell ill on July 2, 2015, having earlier arrived in the country from Saudi Arabia by way of Dubai."
Garin declined to give more details. Although Garin stressed that there had been no cases of MERS infection through casual contact in the Philippines, the health department was tracing people who might have had contact with the patient. Garin said, "They include all those who were on the same flight as the infected man."
Department spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy said, "Health authorities earlier examined three South Korean expatriates who developed respiratory ailments, but all tested negative for MERS."
A Filipina nurse who returned from Saudi Arabia in February, 2015, became the first person in the Philippines to test positive for MERS but she later recovered. While in South Korea, which is suffering the worst outbreak of MERS outside Saudi Arabia, 185 people have been diagnosed with the disease with 33 fatalities. Elsewhere in Asia, Malaysia reported a case before the South Korean MERS outbreak in May, 2015, while China reported a person with MERS who had traveled to the country after recent exposure in South Korea.