Philippines remains free of 2019nCoV

The health department said Tuesday Philippines remained free from a new coronavirus strain but experts are waiting for laboratory test results to confirm whether or not 19 people in the country were infected with a fast-spreading illness first detected in China.

Of the total, 13 of those "under investigation" were in Metro Manila, 3 each in Western Visayas and Central Visayas, and 1 each in Mimaropa, Eastern Visayas, and Northern Mindanao, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Laboratory results for 13 of them will come from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa, while test results for the other 6 will come from specialists in Australia, he told reporters.


"Still, there are no confirmed cases of the novel coranavirus (2019nCoV) in the country," Duque said.

There are no Filipinos under observation and most of those being observed are Chinese, said Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization.

Some experts say the new China strain may not be as deadly as SARS, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide during a 2002 to 2003 outbreak that also originated from China.

READChina virus toll spikes despite massive lockdown

The 2019nCoV strain, which can cause a pneumonia-like acute respiratory infection, has infected about 2,700 people and spread in a matter of weeks across China and to a dozen other countries, including the US, France, and Australia.

READ: List of countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus

Almost all fatalities due to the pathogen are elderly and have "underlying medical conditions" like chronic pulmonary disease, hypertension and cancer, Duque said.

The public should wash their hands frequently, hydrate well, avoid crowded places and wear face masks to avoid getting sick, authorities earlier said.

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