An OFW died from Saudi's SARS-like virus, also known as MERS-CoV. - Photo by
An OFW died from Saudi’s SARS-like virus, also known as MERS-CoV. – Photo by

Manila, Philippines – A Filipino  nurse in a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was the first Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) to die from Middle East respiratory syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

“Our embassy in Riyadh confirmed that a 41-year-old Filipina staff nurse at a hospital in Riyadh died last Aug. 29 and based on a medical report obtained, the deceased tested positive for the coronavirus before her death,” said Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez.

The Filipina nurse, whose name was withheld, was admitted after complaining of fever and coughing. A few days later, she was diagnosed with severe pneumonia and had to be transferred to the hospital’s ICU.

Hernandez said the family of the dead OFW have been informed. DFA and the Philippine Department of Health have coordinated with them regarding the repatriation of her body.

Meanwhile, the spokesman added that another Filipino worker is currently confined at the same hospital after being positive with MERS-CoV, but is now on recovery.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed four additional laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS-Cov, including the said OFW.

The first case is a 41-year-old female healthcare worker from Riyadh who became ill on August 15 and died at the end of the month. The MERS-CoV also infected a 30-year-old male healthcare worker who now suffers severe pneumonia and whose health is in critical condition. Another case involved a 79-year-old patient who died after developing a respiratory illness on Aug. 21.

The DFA official urges the citizens to follow the measures practiced by the local health authorities to prevent spreading coronavirus.

Anyone should seek immediate medical attention if he/she feels the symptoms of the said virus which include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. Other symptoms are renal failure and severe acute pneumonia.


A year after Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) hit the world’s radar, lots had been learned about the virus outbreak in China, Hongkong, Toronto and ignited panic even beyond the affected areas.

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a coronavirus first reported on September 2012 by Egyptian virologist Dr. Ali Mohamed Zaki in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It is in the same family as SARS and the common cold (coronavirus). It has been referred as Saudi Arabia’s SARS-like virus.

Like SARS, MERS-CoV can be transmitted through air and it spread particularly well in healthcare settings, mostly human-to-human transmissions occur.


As of September 17, 2013, 114 MERS-CoV cases and 54 deaths have been recorded around the globe. In France, 2 cases, 1 death (50% fatality rate); Italy—3 cases, 0 death (0%); Jordan—2 cases, 2 deaths (100%); Quatar—5 cases, 2 deaths (40%); Saudi Arabia—90 cases, 44 deaths (48%); Tunisia, 3 cases, 1 death (33%); UAE—6 cases, 2 deaths (33%), and UK—3 cases, 2 deaths (67%).

Written by:

Mary Sarah Inciso Gabornes
ABCom/ Leyte Normal University