Passengers walk past the medical quarantine area showing information sheets for the MERS virus at Manila International Airport. Pic: AP.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (April 21) – The whereabouts of at least 12 of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is now being monitored by police authorities and health officials after the Department of Health (DOH) sent an alert about possible contamination of the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus or MERS-CoV.

A medical officer from the Police Regional Office in Region 12 (PRO-12), who requested that his name be withheld, said April 19, that eight of these OFWs are from Region 12.

The source said PRO 12 director Chief Supt. Lester Camba hastily called for a command conference to respond to the DOH alert.

MERS-CoV is a SARS-like virus that was discovered only in 2012.

People afflicted with the virus can develop severe acute respiratory illness. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.  About half of people who contracted MERS-CoV have died.

The source however said they could not yet confirm if those being monitored have been affected.

He said DOH workers stationed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport reported to have monitored unusually high body temperatures when they passed through the airport surveillance system. They were advised to seek further medical attention.

But the DOH said those placed on the watch list proceeded to go home to their respective provinces.  Some reportedly took the long bus ride from Manila to Mindanao.

Of the 12 returning OFWs from the Middle East, two were from Kidapawan City in Cotabato, one each from Polomolok and Norala in South Cotabato, two from General Santos City and  one from Kiamba, Sarangani. 

The source showed the list of the OFWs included in the DOH alert but requested that their names be withheld.

Last week, DOH Secretary Enrique Ona told a TV news channel that a returning Filipina nurse from Abu Dhabi tested negative of the virus.

The nurse, who initially tested positive, was quarantined for four days and underwent two more tests which turned out to be negative. A source said she has already been discharged.

The Health Secretary urged returning OFWs from the Middle East to immediately seek medical attention if they are experiencing symptoms of the virus.

The Philippines has not reported any confirmed case of the virus.