Mystery disease sparks SARS fears

January 05, 2020

THE Department of Health yesterday ordered strict monitoring of all incoming travelers amid reports of a mysterious disease from China that has sparked fears of a return of the dreaded severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The DOH action follows similar steps in airports in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan which have also tightened screenings for fever among travelers. 

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III 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 the mysterious disease.

Duque instructed the BOQ to intensify the checking of all incoming travelers especially those manifesting fever or signs of respiratory infection.

It has been reported lately that an outbreak of a mysterious illness has affected 44 individuals in China. According to reports, the disease is similar to a “viral pneumonia of unknown origin.”

“I urge the public, especially those with history of travel from China, to seek immediate medical consultation if experiencing any flu-like symptoms. Let us also embrace healthy lifestyles, practice proper hand hygiene, and observe cough etiquette to prevent transmission of respiratory infections,” the health chief said.

The unidentified form of viral pneumonia has struck several dozen people in the Chinese city of Wuhan, sparking concerns that the country may be facing an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Livescience has reported.  

Back in 2002 and 2003, SARS spread to 26 countries, infecting more than 8,000 people with a severe, flu-like illness and claiming more than 750 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The outbreak began in China, where 349 people died from the disease on the mainland and 299 more perished in Hong Kong, Asian news channel CNA reported.

The SARS virus spreads through person-to-person contact and can be expelled from an infected individual when they cough or sneeze, contaminating both people and nearby objects. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that China was free of SARS in 2004, but now, a mysterious bout of viral illness has led to speculation that the disease is back.

Forty-four cases of the unidentified illness have been reported so far, including 11 “severe” cases, according to the international news agency AFP. Many of the infected individuals were stall holders at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which health authorities have closed until further notice, according to the South China Morning Post.