At the tail end of 2019, an alarming number of pneumonia cases were reported throughout Wuhan City in China’s Hubei Province. These would later be determined as having been caused by a new coronavirus strain designated as the novel corona virus or 2019-nCoV. This strain had never previously been observed in humans up to this point. In this article, we’ll be providing some useful information in identifying the 2019-nCoV, preventing the contraction and spreading of the virus, and taking note of travel restrictions and protocols currently being observed in the context of this outbreak.
Firstly, what is a coronavirus? Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause different illnesses, strains of which have been observed to affect farm animals and domesticated pets as well as humans. Such illnesses can range from the common cold, the flu, or those caused by previously discovered strains such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS-CoV). The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new strain of coronavirus not previously observed in humans. On the 30th of January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the virus be renamed “2019 novel coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease” (2019-nCoV ARD).
Symptoms associated with the virus include flu-like respiratory problems, coughing, fever, and breathing difficulties. More severe cases of the 2019-nCoV ARD have been known to cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death. At the time of writing, the way in which the virus is being transmitted is still being studied, although human-to-human transmission has been confirmed largely in Wuhan City by the WHO on the 24th of January 2020. While there is currently no specific treatment for the 2019-nCoV ARD, its symptoms can be treated depending on the patient’s clinical condition.
Since research on transmission and treatment are still well under way, it is understandable that many people are concerned regarding the spread of the virus. That said, there are ways in which we can prevent the spread of the 2019-nCoV ARD based on the symptoms that have been observed. Below are the Department of Health’s recommendations to the public:
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the absence of soap and water.
- Practice proper cough etiquette:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief.
- Move away from people when coughing.
- Do not spit.
- Properly dispose of tissues.
- Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
- Use alcohol and sanitizer frequently.
- Maintain a distance of at least one meter from anyone displaying flu-like symptoms.
- Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals (alive or dead), animal markets, or animal products such as uncooked meat.
- Ensure that your food is well-cooked.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If you have been to Wuhan City recently, and especially if you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, it is strongly suggested that you seek immediate medical attention at the nearest hospital. It is recommended that readers take note of the Department of Health’s advisory board on their website for further updates. The World Health Organization also has a detailed series of situation reports that focus on the affected countries and contains recommendations for travelers and patients.
As of the 2nd of February 2020, President Duterte approved a temporary ban of entry on any person coming directly from China and its Special Administrative Regions (i.e. Hong Kong and Macau), except for Filipinos and those that hold PR resident visas issued by the Philippines. While there are no restrictions for outgoing travelers, they are heavily advised to avoiding travel to places that are known to have coronavirus cases. They are also encouraged to follow their destination’s health advisories as well as taking note of the location of health facilities near their accommodations. Filipinos living and working abroad are also advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs to get in contact with the nearest Philippine Embassy or Consulate General should they require assistance regarding the 2019-nCoV ARD. The DFA also provides the contact information of their posts in China that Filipinos can call in case of emergencies.