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PANIK and PNA President Hengie V Taton (centre), during the recent meeting with Filipino nurses in Kuwait
DFA issues advisory on ‘MERS’ to OFWs in ME Pinoy death in UAE raises concern

KUWAIT CITY, April 15: Filipino health workers in Kuwait were alarmed after a Filipino paramedic in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) died due to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) while five others were infected and placed under quarantine. According to reports, the 45 year-old Filipino paramedic at Al Ain, Abu Dhabi became ill on April 6 and was hospitalised on April 7 and later died on April 10. The patient was not known to have any chronic disease. He did not have a recent history of travel or contact with animals or with a previously laboratory-confirmed case.

“It’s alarming on our side. A bit scary considering that we are in the frontline and anything can happen to us. We don’t know what the patient has at that moment but by observing and practicing the standard precautionary measures, this event can be prevented. We just have to exercise extra precautionary measures by using personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the rising MERS cases in neighbouring countries,” stated Hengie V Taton, the President of the Pinoy Ambulance Nurses in Kuwait (PANIK) and the Pinoy Nurses Association in Kuwait (PNA).

There are over 200 Filipino nurses assigned at the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) at the Ministry of Health, who along with other EMS staff of other nationalities respond to emergency cases daily. “All EMS personnel and aid providers as well as health facilities in Kuwait are advised to follow the CDC checklist that will identify the key actions that can be taken to enhance preparedness,” he explained. He added that they are committed to their jobs and fully prepared to answer the call of duty amid the health risks. In view of this recent development, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila issued an advisory on Monday to all Filipinos living in the Middle East to take necessary precautions and heed the advice of local health authorities after the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) claimed the life of an OFW in the United Arab Emirates.

The DFA reminded the two million Filipinos in the Middle East to avoid particular areas where there have been reports of MERS-CoV infections. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified the symptoms of MERS-CoV, which include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and even diarrhea. The DFA urged Filipinos in affected countries to remain calm and to heed the advice given by local health authorities, such as washing the hands thoroughly, using sanitizers, and observing other general hygiene practices. Those who experience any of the disease’s symptoms are urged to immediately seek medical attention. “The main thing is to remain calm. We survived the SARS virus in 2003 and we just need to be careful and all will be well.

Practice hygiene, avoid overcrowded places, and just carry on with your normal activities. The panic is the one that kills, not necessarily the disease itself. The good thing is that the weather is changing. Respiratory viruses thrive in cold weather and the hot air will be to our advantage. This was our experience with SARS in Asia 10 years ago,” stressed Philippine Consul General to Kuwait Atty Raul H Dado.

As of April 14, 2014, WHO has been informed of an additional 16 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to WHO, the 15 additional laboratory-confirmed cases, included two deaths announced on the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia website and provided to WHO between April 6 and 11.

The additional laboratoryconfirmed case reported by the Ministry of Health of the UAE on April 10, 2014 included the 45-year-old Filipino paramedic. The concerned health authorities in the UAE are conducting investigations into the contacts of the case. So far, there is no recent MERS-CoV case reported in Kuwait. This was also confirmed by a reliable source at the Kuwait Virology Laboratory who requested for anonymity. Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

By: Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff

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