First novel coronavirus death outside China reported in Philippines

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 2) — The Department of Health announced Sunday the country’s first death of a patient who tested positive for novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) — the first reported death due to the virus outside of China.

A 44-year-old Chinese man, who is also the Philippines’ second confirmed case of 2019-nCoV, died Saturday, the DOH said. He was the partner of the 38-year-old Chinese woman who last week became the first confirmed case of the new virus in the country.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said the man was admitted to San Lazaro Hospital on January 25. He had penumonia, fever, cough and a sore throat.

“Over the course of the patient’s admission he developed severe pneumonia. In his last few days, the patient was stable and showed signs of improvement. However, the condition of the patient deteriorated within the last 24 hours resulting in his demise,” Duque said.

He added that aside from being infected with 2019-nCoV, the man was also infected with Influenza B virus and Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.

"Many of the [deaths] in China have been observed ... the first 40, most of those really with underlying medical problems," Duque said.

In contrast, the man's partner only sought consultation due to mild cough and was already free of any symptoms of infection by the time the DOH announced Thursday that she is positive for 2019-nCoV.

The DOH said they are now working with the Chinese embassy and will cremate the remains of the man.

"When we have persons who died of infectious illness, part of the protocol is to dispose the body or even cremate the remains as soon as possible," DOH spokesperson Eric Domingo said.

Duque said the San Lazaro Hospital has isolated the man and his partner, while health personnel who came in contact with them practiced stringent infection control measures and wore appropriate personal protective equipment.

The Health chief also said that the Epidemiology Bureau is tracing passengers aboard the flights of the couple, who came to the Philippines from Wuhan — the Chinese city at the center of the 2019-nCoV outbreak — via Hong Kong on January 21.

The bureau is also tracing people who could have come in contact with the couple in Cebu, Dumaguete and other places where they stayed and traveled to.

The World Health Organization stressed that while this is the first death due 2019-nCoV outside of China, this is not a locally-acquired case.

The DOH also said that there are still no reports of community spread of the new virus.

Cebu Pacific said the couple were aboard January 21 on flight 5J 241 from Hong Kong to Cebu and flight DG 6519 from Cebu to Dumaguete. Philippine Airlines also disclosed that the couple were onboard flight PR 2542 from Dumaguete to Manila on January 25.

The two airline companies said it is contacting passengers on those flights. Crew aboard those flights have been placed under quarantine and the planes used have been disinfected, airline officials said.

Those who have not been contacted by Cebu Pacific who were aboard the abovementioned flights can call +632 87020886 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Four more being tested

The DOH said that as of Saturday, they have put 36 people under observation for possible 2019-nCoV infection. Thirty of them have tested negative for the virus, while four more are still being tested at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Ten have been discharged from hospitals. A 29-year-old Chinese man from Yunnan province under observation earlier died due to pneumonia, but he tested negative for 2019-nCoV.

All of the remaining patients under investigation are stable.

"Our persons under investigation have not been increasing rapidly. And I think, with the ban now of the President, it will be a lot easier for us kasi kakaunti na po ang babantayan nating papasok ng Pilipinas (we would only be looking after fewer people coming into the Philippines,)" Domingo said.

Hours ahead of the DOH's announcement, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation to expand the travel ban from China, barring all travelers who passed through the mainland, including Hong Kong and Macau, from entering the Philippines.

The ban exempts Filipino citizens and permanent residents in the country, but requires them to be quarantined for 14 days.

CNN International reported on Sunday that 2019-nCoV had killed at least 305 people and sickened more than 14,300 globally.

The virus has been confirmed in more than 25 countries and territories since it was first detected.

China has reported that the virus may be transmitted even by people who are not showing symptoms, but the WHO said that the main driver of transmission is through people who are symptomatic of the infection.

"Asymptomatic infection may be rare, and transmission from an asymptomatic person is very rare with other coronaviruses, as we have seen with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus. Thus, transmission from asymptomatic cases is likely not a major driver of transmission," the WHO said.

It acknowledged, however, that infected people may transmit the virus even before the develop symptoms.