CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Aklan-PHO monitors flight attendant who went to China

By Emme Rose Santiagudo and Jennifer P. Rendon

The Provincial Health Office (PHO) of Aklan said it is currently investigating a 24-year-old flight attendant of an international airline with a history of travel in Wujan, China, the ground zero of the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV.

Dr. Cornelio V. Cuachon Jr., chief of the Aklan PHO, said the flight attendant was suffering from cough and consulted a private physician. She was eventually referred and admitted to Dr. Rafael Tumbukon Provincial Hospital.

“Meron siyang ubo so eventually she was admitted in Dr. Rafael Tumbukon Provincial Hospital and was discharged this morning,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Cuachon said samples of the flight attendant will be sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for testing on Thursday.

Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, head of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of Western Visayas’ health office, clarified that the flight attendant did not go on quarantine but only went to the Dr. Rafael S. Tumbukon Memorial Hospital (DRSTMH) in Kalibo on Tuesday, January 21, to be examined after suffering from fever.

“After the consultation, she left the hospital, as there was no indicator that it could have been more than just a fever or flu,” Alonsabe said.

The Pinay flight attendant works for Royal Air and has been flying to China and Kalibo.

“We appreciate her for being pro-active. That’s what we want: awareness of the public,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cuachon said the two Chinese nationals who were quarantined at the Kalibo International Airport recently were put on hold by the RITM because their case did not qualify for the 2019-nCov case definition.

“The cases of both the 29-year-old female who arrived Jan. 17 and the 65-year-old male on Jan. 20 did not qualify with nCov case definition. Ibig sabihin kon mapadala ka specimen dapat pasok siya sa nCov case definition,” he explained.

According to Cuachon, the nCov case definition means a person with severe acute respiratory tract infection with history of fever and cough requiring admission to a hospital.

Dapat they are any person na may history of travel sa Wujan, China and close physical contact sa confirmed case. The two previous cases have no travel history to Wujan but it was just a manifestation of flu-like symptoms,” he said.

On the other hand, confirmation of the first samples of the three-year-old Chinese girl who arrived Jan. 18 and showed signs of fever and cold could not be confirmed of the nCov case. Hence, her samples will have to be sent again to the RITM.

“In my assumption, it will also be put on hold because outpatient lang din siya and it does not qualify with nCov but since it’s a new case, gusto lang naton i-test because gamay lang ang knowledge naton regarding this,” he said.

Despite being discharged, Cuachon said they are continuously monitoring the four cases as part of their surveillance.

“Continuous monitoring maskin outpatient sila pa Boracay, we are closely monitoring them as part of surveillance kay basi maprogress ila symptoms and they will be advised to seek medical attention,” he said.

PHO Aklan assured the public that the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) is on alert and is closely watching all seaports and airports in response to the 2019-nCov from China.

Cuachon also urged the public and travellers especially those with history of travel from China to seek immediate consultation if they experience flu like symptoms and embrace a healthy lifestyle to prevent transmission of respiratory infection.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to more serious infections such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. Common signs of coronavirus infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

Cuachon said that the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are not yet considering a travel ban.

Atty. Helen Catalbas, regional director of the Department of Tourism 6, said the reported 2019 Novel Coronavirus outbreak in China has no reported impact on the tourism industry of the region, so far.

But she said, the DOT, along with other agencies, is monitoring the situation.



The Bureau of Quarantine of the Department of Health is working with airlines and airport authorities to strengthen border surveillance, while the Epidemiology Bureau is heightening its community surveillance.

The DOH is also enhancing its coronavirus laboratory testing capacity, hospital preparedness, rapid response, and its risk communication and information dissemination.

Personal Protective Equipment are available at the Bureau of Quarantine, Centers for Health Development, and DOH Hospitals. DOH is also closely monitoring individuals who manifested signs of respiratory infection and had a history of travel to China and is coordinating with WHO and China Center for Disease Control for updates.

“I encourage the health workers to be vigilant and take extra precautionary measures when in contact with patients with acute respiratory infection, especially those with travel history to China,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

DOH advises the public to practice frequent handwashing, avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals, practice proper cough etiquette – maintain distance and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of your elbow, avoid close contact with people showing cold or flu-like symptoms, and ensure that food is well-cooked.

“I urge travelers with symptoms of respiratory illness, either during or after travel, to seek medical attention immediately. I also call on our health facilities to enhance standard infection prevention and control practices, especially in our emergency departments. We must always be ready,” the Health Chief concluded.