MANILA, May 22, 2014 (AFP) – The Philippines said yesterday that two of its citizens working in Saudi Arabia have died from the MERS coronavirus. Foreign Department spokesman Charles Jose said their relatives have been informed and efforts were being made to bring the bodies home.
“Our consul general in Jeddah confirmed that there were two Filipinos who died of MERS. The consulate is helping to repatriate their remains,” he said, adding that the deaths were recorded on 12 and 18 May.
The identities of the two, as well as other details, were not revealed to protect their relatives’ privacy.
Thousands of Filipinos work in the Middle East, while it is estimated as many as 10 million work overseas to escape widespread poverty at home.
MERS or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is considered a deadlier but less transmittable cousin of the SARS virus that appeared in Asia in 2003. It infected more than 8,000 people, and had a fatality rate of nine percent.
Health authorities in Saudi Arabia this week reported new deaths from the MERS coronavirus, taking the death toll to 173. It has been the worst affected by the outbreak with a total of 537 people infected.
Other nations including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates and the United States have also recorded cases, mostly in people who had recently returned from travel in the desert kingdom.
The Filipinos’ deaths came as the Philippines has been stepping up its defence against the virus by screening all those coming from the Middle East at ports of entry.
Last month, it quarantined a male Filipino nurse who had tested positive for the virus.