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    DOH now full alert on mysterious disease from China

    MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) assured the public that the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) is on alert and is closely watching all seaports and airports in response to reports of a mysterious disease from China.

    Passengers wear face masks at Beijing Capital International Airport.
    Passengers wear face masks at Beijing Capital International Airport. Photo Credit: Getty Image

    In a statement on Sunday, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III instructed the BOQ to intensify the checking of all incoming travelers especially those manifesting fever or signs of respiratory infection.

    The mysterious disease was first reported on December 24 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China, with a population of over 11 million -- leading to online speculation about a resurgence of the highly contagious SARS virus that killed hundreds more than a decade ago.

    China said that the illness was not the flu-like virus SARS.

    "We have excluded several hypotheses, in particular the fact that it is a flu, an avian flu, an adenovirus, respiratory syndrome severe acute (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)," the Wuhan health commission said.

    The Wuhan police also said they punished 8 people for "publishing or forwarding false information on the internet without verification."

    "I urge the public, especially those with history of travel from China, to seek immediate medical consult if experiencing any flu-like symptoms" Duque said.

    "Let us also embrace healthy lifestyles, practice proper hand hygiene, and observe cough etiquette to prevent transmission of respiratory infections" the Health Chief added.

    Outbreak in Hong Kong

    The outbreak caused fears in Hong Kong when a woman who traveled to Wuhan during Christmas holidays was admitted to hospital on Thursday for treatment of respiratory infections.

    Last Saturday, Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority had reported a total of eight cases to the city’s health department.

    'Pneumonia of unknown cause'

    As of January 3, a total of 44 patients with "pneumonia of unknown etiology" have been reported to World Health Organization (WHO) by the national authorities in China. Of the 44 cases reported, 11 are severely ill, while the remaining 33 patients are in stable condition.

    According to the authorities, some patients were operating dealers or vendors in the Huanan Seafood market. Based on the preliminary information from the Chinese investigation team, no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission and no health care worker infections have been reported.

    The concerned market was closed on January 1 for environmental sanitation and disinfection.

    Signs and symptoms

    National authorities report that all patients are isolated and receiving treatment in Wuhan medical institutions.

    The clinical signs and symptoms are mainly fever, with a few patients having difficulty in breathing, and chest radiographs showing invasive lesions of both lungs.

    Public health response

    Chinese authorities have reported the following response measures:

    • One hundred and twenty-one close contacts have been identified and are under medical observation;
    • The follow-up of close contacts is ongoing;
    • Pathogen identification and the tracing of the cause are underway;
    • Wuhan Municipal Health Commission carried out active case finding, and retrospective investigations have been completed;
    • Environmental sanitation and further hygiene investigations are under way.

    WHO is closely monitoring the situation and is in close contact with national authorities in China.

    — The Summit Express

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