Manila, April 22, 2003 -- The Department of Health (DoH) has placed some 200 persons under quarantine for a possible Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in the country.

This as Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit announced that the country's second probable SARS victim, identified as Adela Catalon, traveled to Baguio, Tarlac, Pangasinan and Metro Manila days before her death.

Health authorities said 46-year-old Catalon succumbed to "respiratory ailment" with glaring symptoms of SARS last week.

"She was traveling in Luzon, finding a doctor for her father who was diagnosed with cancer," Dayrit said.

He pointed out that Catalon had several "casual contacts" during her travel. He added that aside from the 200 people under voluntary quarantine, there are 54 others who were under close monitoring.

"Of the 54, four were considered suspected cases of SARS. They are now confined at the RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine)," Dayrit said.

Among the four cases were an infant, an 11-year old boy, Catalon's father and her driver who accompanied her throughout her trip in Northern Luzon. The four reportedly experienced occasional fever.

Dayrit also explained there is a connection between Catalon's death and that of the Filipino doctor who died of SARS in Canada.

"A.C. (Adela Catalon) got the disease from her roommate's mother who was incidentally treated by the Filipino doctor who died in Canada," Dayrit said.

Catalon, who arrived in the country last April 4, worked as a nurse in Ontario, Canada, a place heavily affected by SARS. She died on April 11.

The RITM has already sent blood and tissue samples of Catalon to Japan for PRC tests to check whether she carried coronavirus, the viral agent that causes SARS. The RITM has yet to develop its own diagnostic test for local use.

Catalon's arrival in the country has prompted Dayrit to reiterate his call for balikbayans to undergo voluntary quarantine for at least a week.

She was able to pass the quarantine test because she reportedly was not yet symptomatic during her arrival in the country.

The health chief said there are three Filipinos who died of SARS since the worldwide outbreak began.

"Two of them died overseas, the domestic helper in Hong Kong and the doctor in Canada. While the nurse (Catalon) became the first (to die) in the country," he said. Dayrit said Catalon's case adds to country's probable case lists.

"Until a local transmission takes place in the country, we'll still be considered SARS free," he stressed.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved