It’s just the first month of the year and we’re seeing the world burning down, volcanoes hazardously erupting, countries nearing the brink of war, and just general chaos all over. And now a deadly disease outbreak is potentially on our horizons, and we must be more vigilant than ever. Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus in the Philippines.
What is the coronavirus?
The coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause a variety of illnesses, such as the common cold or the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). This family of viruses has some strains that can cause illnesses in people, while other strains affect animals such as cats, camels, and bats.
The new strain of coronavirus, called a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), was first confirmed when an outbreak of pneumonia happened in Wuhan, China.
Is the 2019-nCoV the same as SARS or MERS?
No, it is not. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Chinese authorities have quickly worked to identify the new pathogen, and laboratory results showed that SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, influenza, avian influenza, and adenovirus have been ruled out, thus the name 2019-nCoV.
How does it spread? How is it transmitted?
While rare, the coronavirus becomes deadly when transmitted from animals to people, as observed with the SARS and MERS viruses. Eventually, it can even spread between people, as confirmed by the first US case, which often happens upon contact with the secretions of the infected patients ranging from coughs and sneezes to skin contact like handshakes.
Where did it come from?
According to China’s state-run media, patients who fell ill between December 12 and 29 were identified to be vendors at a local seafood market. Since then, the market has been shut down for cleaning and disinfection.
Are there any confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in the Philippines?
Over 200 cases have been confirmed in several countries all over the world. In China alone, there have been at least nine deaths, as of writing. Other countries with confirmed cases include Thailand (confirmed 8 January), Japan (confirmed 16 January), South Korea (confirmed 20 January), Australia (confirmed 21 January), and USA (confirmed 21 January; earlier today in PHT). Suspected cases have been found in Hong Kong, Nepal, and Taiwan.
The Philippines also has a suspected case with a five-year-old Chinese boy in Cebu City, identified on 21 January.
What are the common symptoms?
To know if anyone has been infected with the virus, you should watch out for these symptoms: fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, headache, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Eventually, CoV infection may cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
Those with weaker immune systems such as elderly and children face more danger with the 2019-nCoV.
Is there a treatment? A cure?
At the moment, there is no known treatment or cure. Symptoms often go away on their own, but prescription of pain or fever medicine can often help.
As of writing, there is also no vaccine available to prevent the contraction of the virus, though researchers have been looking into creating a vaccine for the MERS virus. However, this could still take years, more so for a vaccine for the 2019-nCoV strain.
How can you protect yourself?
It is better to take as much preventative measures as you can before you even contract the virus. Prevention is definitely better than cure when there’s no known cure. Here are some tips that you can practice to protect yourself:
- Wash hands regularly.
- Cover mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cook meat and eggs thoroughly.
- Disinfect the objects and surfaces you touch.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
Keep clean, safe, and healthy everyone!