Manila: Twelve Filipinos who had been in close contact with a Saudi man who died in a private hospital due to a suspected Middle East Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection showed symptoms like cough, chills, fever, and shortness of breath but tested negative for the deadly virus, senior officials said.

The Saudi man, whose name was not released, died on September 29 after being quarantined at an undisclosed hospital after showing symptoms of MERS-CoV on September 26, nine days after he arrived in the Philippines on September 17, Health Secretary Janette Garin said in a report on Saturday.

The Saudi man might have picked up the MERS-CoV infection earlier, Garin said, adding that it called for those who were on the same flight as him to be traced and to undergo tests for MERS-CoV.

“His demise is the first MERS-CoV-related death in the Philippines,” said Lyndon Lee Suy, spokesperson of the health department.

The 12 persons were among 81 found to have been in close contact with the Saudi man. The 12 persons were traced immediately after the health department was informed about the Saudi’s death on September 29 and were ordered confined for two more weeks at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and at San Lazaro Hospital after exhibiting symptoms of MERS-CoV, Suy said.

“The 12 will be monitored daily for the next 14 days until they are cleared of possible MERS-CoV infection. They would also undergo re-testing at the end of the monitoring period to rule out initial results of their tests as false negative,” said Suy, adding, “We are doing this to ensure that no one gets infected in the Philippines.”

“The health department found only 81 of the 93 people who came in contact with the Saudi national,” said Suy, adding that the 81 included 55 hospital staff, 15 hotel workers, three funeral parlour personnel, and eight others whose names were not revealed.

“We hope to find the rest of the people who had proximity and contact with him when he was still alive,” said Suy.

“The situation is contained,” health secretary Garin replied when asked about MERS-CoV control measures in the Philippines.

“Everyone should be aggressive in limiting the presence of MERS-CoV in the Philippines,” Garin said, adding that tourists with flu-like symptoms, who had travelled from the Middle East, or were exposed to MERS-CoV infected persons should report to any hospital in the Philippines.

A 36-year old foreigner had tested positive for MERS-CoV last July, but was later cleared of the virus in the same month.

A Filipina nurse who arrived from Saudi Arabia tested positive for the deadly virus, but was cleared of it last February, Many overseas Filipino workers are based in Saudi-Arabia where MERS-CoV was first reported in 2012.