Quick questions â and answers â on the novel coronavirus
In this file photo during the Taal volcano eruption, customers at a pharmacy line up for face masks, which are out of stock. Health authorities have advised covering mouths when coughing and observing proper cough etiquette to help prevent infection.
The STAR/Edd Gumban

Quick questions — and answers — on the novel coronavirus

Jaira Krishelle Balboa (Philstar.com) - January 30, 2020 - 9:13am

MANILA, Philippines — Chinese authorities are grappling with the containment of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was first reported in Wuhan in Hubei, China and has since been reported in other countries of the world.

Although the Wuhan virus has spread to several global regions, Health Secretary Duque said there are no confirmed cases yet in the country, although there were 23 Patients Under Investigation (PUIs) for the novel coronavirus as of Wednesday.

With the rapid spread of the 2019-nCoV, the World Health Organization together with public health officials are closely studying the new virus to come up with solutions.

Here is what we know so far:

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that range from the common cold to more serious infections. It is common in different farm animals and domesticated pets but can also infect and spread to people such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

What is the novel coronavirus?

The novel coronavirus is a new strain of virus that has not been previously identified in humans.

It is closely related to SARS and in the same family as MERS.

To date, health experts are not yet sure where the virus originated, although it is likely that the strain came from an animal.

What are the symptoms of the novel coronavirus?

Symptoms of the new coronavirus include flu-like and respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties.

In severe cases, the virus can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

How does the novel coronavirus spread?

The virus can be transmitted through person-to-person contact by coughing, sneezing, and other respiratory secretions by those infected.

However, there is no definitive data yet on how contagious the virus is. The intensity of its transmission and virulence is still being studied by experts.

How long is the incubation period of the virus?

The 2019-nCoV has an incubation period of up to 14 days, during which people who are infected may not yet show symptoms of the virus but are already infected with it.

Can the virus be transmitted during incubation period?

According to China's Health Minister Ma Xiaowei, the Wuhan virus can be spread even during the incubation period. This means that people who do not yet show symptoms of the 2019-nCoV may also infect other people.

Is there a vaccine or cure for the novel coronavirus?

There are currently no available vaccines against coronaviruses, although Australian scientists have successfully replicated the Wuhan virus, which will help health experts study the virus faster, and possibly come up with a vaccine.

However, many of its symptoms can be treated based on the patient’s clinical conditions. Early diagnosis and supportive care for infected persons are highly important and effective.

What should you do if you recently travelled from affected countries and/or are showing symptoms?

People who recently traveled from affected areas, especially those who show symptoms of severe respiratory illness and other signs of the 2019-nCoV even if they haven’t traveled to China, should seek medical attention immediately and have themselves screened for common causes of respiratory illness.

What countries are affected by the novel coronavirus?

To date, there are confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV virus in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, US, France, Germany, South Korea, Canada, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

What are the preventive measures against infection?

  • Proper hygiene and safe food practices

  • Practice proper cough etiquette (Always bring a handkerchief/tissue; cover mouth and nose using handkerchief/tissue and move away from people when coughing; throw away used tissues properly)

  • Wash hands with soap and water often

  • Clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub

  • Avoid close contact with people with fever or cough

  • Seek medical help early if you have fever, cough, or breathing problems

  • Share travel history with healthcare provider

  • Avoid direct contact with animals in markets of outbreak-hit areas

  • Properly cook and handle raw animal products

What is the government doing?

The DOH said they are closely monitoring individuals with signs of respiratory infection, and are also enhancing their laboratory testing capacity, hospital preparedness, and rapid response on the virus.

Health Secretary Duque announced Wednesday that the Philippines has acquired help from the Japan to help test suspected cases of the 2019-nCoV in the country.

The Civil Aeronautics Board has already suspended direct flights from Wuhan China, while the Bureau of Immigration has temporarily suspended the issuance of Visa Upon Arrival to Chinese tourists.

The Bureau of Quarantine also remains on high alert and are working with authorithies to strengthen the monitoring of the virus.

However, the Palace on Tuesday said that there is no need yet to ban Chinese nationals from entering the country. Other countries have started to temporarily bar Chinese tourists.

As of Wednesday evening, the 2019-nCoV had infected 6,057 persons globally, taking the lives of 132 people.

On Thursday morning, the Chinese government said deaths had risen to 169 and Wuhan health authorities have reported 1,032 new confirmed cases of infection.

Sources: World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health

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