CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: Dinagyang revellers told to be vigilant

Devotees proudly display images of the Sto. Niño during the fluvial and foot procession of the 2019 Dinagyang Festival. Ilonggos need prayers and vigilance to prevent the mysterious coronavirus from China from ruining the festival. (Ramil Gorrieza photo)

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

Local and foreign tourists are expected to flood Iloilo City this weekend to join the world-famous Dinagyang Festival.

In line with this, the Department of Health-Center for Health Development in Western Visayas (DOH-CHD 6) cautioned Dinagyang revellers to stay vigilant and observe proper hygiene when participating in Dinagyang-related activities.

Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist of DOH-CHD-6, said vigilance is part of the safety measures against the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) case that is spreading in China.

Alonsabe added flu and common colds are rampant because of the influenza season.

“We have to take care of ourselves nga indi malatnan sang seasonal influenza, trangkaso, or maskin ano klase sang virus dira that is why we have to observe good personal hygiene by practicing handwashing and proper cough etiquette,” he said.

Last December, clustering of pneumonia cases of unknown etiology or cause was reported in Wuhan, China.

Later on, it was found out that the outbreak was caused by a 2019-nCoV, a new coronavirus strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

The DOH Central Office said it is also monitoring the three Chinese individuals with flu-like symptoms that entered the country through the Kalibo International Airport.

Alonsabe said samples from these patients were already sent to Research Institution for Tropical Medicines (RITM) for testing.

The Chinese nationals were quarantined where it was found out that they have no history of travel to Wuhan and without any known contact with a confirmed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) case, Severe Acute Respiratory Illness case, or sick animals.

All the three cases are currently well and are no longer manifesting any symptoms.

Despite this, Alonsabe said they are closely monitoring all the ports of entries in the region particularly the Kalibo International Airport where it has many direct flights from China.

As part of the protocol, all passengers who will be detected by the thermal scanner will have to undergo quarantine procedures.

Sa ports of entries gabantay ang aton Bureau of Quarantine. May scanner kita dira. Once madetect ka you will have to undergo quarantine procedures. Ginadala siya sa may designated room and ginainterview ang pasyente, ginakuhaan travel history, medical history kag physical examination,” he said.

On Tuesday, DOH revealed that they are currently investigating the case of a 5-year-old who traveled from Wuhan, China and was admitted in Cebu City for manifesting fever, throat irritation, and cough prior to entering the Philippines.

The case was immediately reported to the Regional Epidemiology & Surveillance Unit of Central Visayas Center for Health Development and the child was endorsed for admission.

According to the health department, samples of the patients sent to the RITM tested negative for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS-CoV).

The health department confirmed that the sample tested positive for non-specific pancoronavirus assay, thus the specimen was sent to Australia to identify the specific coronavirus strain.

Alonsabe explained that the case has not yet been confirmed positive for 2019-nCov and will have to be further tested to determine the exact viral strain.

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.