DOH: 4 PH seafarers with India variant receiving care, no proof of faster health decline

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — Four Filipino seafarers detected with the B.1.617 variant first found in India are still receiving extra medical attention, but the Health Department on Monday said there is no scientific basis yet to conclude that this variant can cause severe COVID-19 or make the patient's health deteriorate faster.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said one of the crew members of COVID-stricken MV Athens Bridge is currently intubated, while three fellow seafarers are under oxygen support. She said their conditions are improving and they are "doing well." The other crew members found with the variant are also being monitored.

The crew from the vessel who are currently admitted in the hospital will be re-tested as it is the 21st day from the onset of their symptoms. The progression of their symptoms will also be checked and compared with other COVID-19 patients.

"Wala pa namang ganung kadaming ebidensya na lumalabas about this Indian variant and its pathogenesis or progression ng sakit," she said in a media briefing.

Vergeire added, "Titingnan po natin ang course ng sakit kung kapag kinumpara sa ibang variant o ibang indibidwal na may sakit ay kung talagang mas mahaba o mas nag-worsen."

[Translation: There is not a lot of evidence that this Indian variant's pathogenesis or how the condition of those with the variant progresses. We will check the course of their sickness to see how it compares to other patients or those with other variants. We will check if they are sick for a longer period or if their health condition is worse.]

Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante was quoted as saying that there are already reports that the B.1.617 variant can cause a more severe COVID-19.

The Philippines has 12 cases of the India variant. The only active cases are the nine seafarers from MV Athens Bridge, while the patients with travel history from Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Belgium have already completed their isolation and have recovered.