59 contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases in PH show flu-like symptoms

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 12) – Fifty-nine contacts of the country’s first three confirmed cases of novel coronavirus are suspected of having the new viral disease now called COVID-19, a health official said Wednesday as authorities brace for the possibility of local transmission.

Of this number, 44 people came in contact with the Chinese couple from Wuhan – the Chinese city at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, while the rest were contacts of the third case – the 60-year-old Chinese woman, also from Wuhan, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a briefing.

Domingo said they all showed red flag symptoms of the new viral infection first discovered in China.

A total of 277 of the 455 contacts of the pair have been tracked down by government authorities. On the other hand, 246 out of 731 contacts of the elderly Chinese woman who went back to China on January 31, were traced. Of that number, 149 reported they had travel history to China, and were quarantined in their homes, Domingo said.

The official said the number of contacts of the third case is higher than the first two cases because the DOH’s epidemiology bureau included all her co-passengers in the flight from Cebu to Tagbilaran in the tally.

Over half of people under watch COVID-19 negative

As of Wednesday noon, more than half of people under watch for possible infection have already tested negative for COVID-19.

The DOH said 208 of the 408 people they are keeping an eye on as possible virus carriers have yielded negative results. They will be discharged soon, Domingo said.

Of the running total, 238 are currently admitted to various hospitals and classified as “patients under investigation" or PUIs — those who exhibit signs of the new viral infection as well as had history of travel to China or contact with confirmed cases.

The department added that 165 PUIs have already been discharged.

DOH said that people under watch include 240 Filipinos, 98 Chinese, 18 Americans, four Finnish, 3 Germans, one Brazilian, one British, one French, one Italian, one Japanese, one South Korean, one Kiwi, one Dutch and one Taiwanese.

The overall figure of those "under investigation" and "under monitoring" includes the Philippines' first three confirmed cases and the two PUIs who died due to other causes.

One of the three confirmed cases — a 44-year-old Chinese man who died in Manila — was the first COVID-2019 fatality outside of mainland China.

Domingo added that the agency is ramping up efforts in the event of a local transmission of the disease. So far, all confirmed cases in the country have come from China.

"We always have that at the back of our minds that it will happen, it can happen that’s why we’re preparing our hospitals to make sure that kung dumami talaga 'yung cases [if the number of cases increase] and we might have to change strategies, dapat ready tayo [we have to be ready]," said the health official.

He said they will follow Singapore's lead in changing strategies. Singapore already recorded cases of local transmission of COVID-19, Domingo noted.

"Kapag ang bansa nagkaroon na ng local transmission katulad ng Singapore nagshishift. Kapag ncov ka, sa bahay ka na lang, inaadmit na lang severe cases hindi na lahat tinetest. Ang tinetest mo na lang talagang high risk," he explained.

[Translation: If a local transmission occurs in the country, just like Singapore, this means a shift. If you have COVID-19, just stay at home and we will admit only the severe cases and not everyone will be tested. We will only test those at high-risk.]

Domingo also reported that there are no more PUIs resisting hospital admission.

Last week, the official said nine PUIs have refused to be admitted to a hospital. This prompted Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to appeal to the suspected cases to help authorities stop the spread of the COVID-19.