MANILA • A foreigner who flew to the Philippines from the Middle East has become the second confirmed case of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) in the country as a deadly outbreak in South Korea spreads alarm across Asia.
The 36-year-old male patient, whose nationality was not disclosed, has been put in isolation at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), a government facility, to contain the virus, Health Secretary Janette Garin said yesterday.
"We can see he is getting better," Dr Garin told a news conference, adding that the man had a "low viral load", indicating his infection was not extremely serious.
"There is no reason to panic and we appeal to the public to respect the privacy of the patient."
The man fell ill last Thursday, having earlier arrived in the country from Saudi Arabia via Dubai, she said, declining to give more details.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the patient had also travelled to an undisclosed country during the 14-day incubation period since he arrived from the Middle East last month.
One of the patient's close contact, a Filipina, was also confined at the RITM on Saturday for showing symptoms of the disease.
The first person in the Philippines to test positive for Mers was a Filipina nurse who returned from Saudi Arabia in February.
She later recovered.
Although Dr Garin stressed that there had been no confirmed cases of Mers infection through casual contact in the Philippines, the health department was tracing people who may have had contact with the patient. They include all those who were on the same flight as the infected man, Dr Garin said.
Mers was first identified in humans in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and the majority of cases have been in the Middle East.
Scientists are not sure of the origin of the virus, but several studies have linked it to camels.
Isolated cases cropped up in Asia before South Korea recorded the biggest number in an outbreak that started in May.
The virus has infected more than 180 people and killed 33 people in South Korea. Of those infected, 41 remain hospitalised, with 11 in a critical condition.
In the Thai capital Bangkok, more than a hundred people were believed to have been in contact with an Omani man, the only Mers case in Thailand. The man eventually recovered.
The Philippine health department has been on alert in recent weeks for the possible entry of the virus that causes Mers, particularly among the 88,000 South Koreans living in the country.
Health authorities earlier examined three South Korean expatriates who developed respiratory ailments, but all tested negative for Mers, department spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy said.
Elsewhere in Asia, Malaysia reported a case before the South Korean outbreak in May, while China reported a person with Mers who had travelled to the country after recent exposure in South Korea, according to the World Health Organisation.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS