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MANILA, Philippines - The two cases of human enterovirus being investigated by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine were "unlikely" to be the same strain that recently killed at least 60 children in Cambodia, the health department said Wednesday.
“Because they have recovered, it’s unlikely that it’s Enterovirus 71,” Health Undersecretary Eric Tayag said during a press briefing. He was referring to the two children aged below 8 who are being investigated for the deadly virus that hit Cambodia.
Tayag however added that the RITM will continue to test the two cases for EV-71 since the virus can also cause mild hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) where the patients recover. “Because nag test na sila, hindi naming pwede i-dismiss na EV-71 kase alam naman namin na EV-71 associated with HFMD na mild. Hindi lahat ng EV-71 ay deadly,” explained Tayag.
The health official said the two children had no travel history adding to the possibility that they were not infected by the deadly virus. Nonetheless, health teams were dispatched to communities where there were reported suspected HFMD cases to do contact-tracing. The children have also been discharged from the hospital, added Tayag.
There are more than seven cases being investigated at the moment for EV-71 as the Department of Health stopped informing the public of new cases for fear that it may cause undue interpretations that there is an outbreak of the severe HFMD.
Last week the DOH ordered all hospitals in the country to report cases of HFMD to avert the possibility of a disease outbreak from EV-71. Tayag said he expects the cases to shoot up as more medical facilities comply with the order.
He said EV-71 is present in many parts of the world including the Philippines where cases were mild and not as deadly as the one in Cambodia. HFMD, a disease that results to fever and sores in the mouth, hand, and feet, may also be caused by coxsackievirus which is also an enterovirus.
Tayag said the EV-71 that killed Cambodian children was the new “poliovirus” because it attacks the nervous system.
The DOH has also started monitoring day care centers in areas where hospitals reported HFMD cases. The virus is transferred from hand to mouth and may happen specially among children sharing toys in daycare centers.