Boy in hospital for coronavirus
Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Lorraine L. Ecarma (The Freeman) - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The Department of Health has confirmed investigating the case of a young Chinese boy in Cebu City who is suspected to have contracted the coronavirus.

The boy has traveled to Wuhan, China where a new strain of the virus was discovered. The virus has downed over 200 people in China.

The DOH said the boy was admitted in Cebu City after manifesting fever, throat irritation, and cough prior to entering the Philippines.

In a statement, DOH said the case was reported immediately to the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the Central Visayas Center for Health Development and the child was endorsed for admission.

As of yesterday, the boy was still experiencing cough but was stable and afebrile.

Samples from the patient were first tested at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and yielded negative results for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS-CoV).

However, the samples tested positive for the non-specific pancoronavirus assay, thus, the specimen was sent to Australia to identify the specific coronavirus strain.

Test results will be ready in 24 to 48 hours.

"Gi-determine ni siya ron kung unsa ba mi siya nga kind nga corona... kung pareho ba ni sa Corona na naa didto sa Wuhan, China (The kind of coronavirus is being determined… if it is the same virus as that in Wuhan, China)," said DOH-7 Director Jaime Bernadas

He said there is no cause for alarm. He said the child tested negative for SARS and MERS-related coronavirus.

Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino echoed Bernadas’ statement.

"Please do not panic but be cautious," Dino said.

He shared that DOH-7 sought for OPAV’s help in locating the child and the child’s mother and in confining them at a private hospital on January 12. The two were transferred to a government hospital on January 18 and were put under quarantine.

Bernadas aid the child is recovering and his mother has been cleared of any symptom of the virus.

The child is in an isolation room until the results are out, and measures are in place so that he will not infect hospital personnel, Bernadas said.

Preventive Measures

DOH advised the public to wash their hands frequently, avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals, practice proper cough etiquette – maintain distance and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of your elbow, avoid close contact with people showing cold or flu-like symptoms, and ensure that food is well-cooked.

In Manila, health secretary Francisco Duque III called on vigilance among health workers.

“I encourage the health workers to be vigilant and take extra precautionary measures when in contact with patients with acute respiratory infection, especially those with travel history to China,” Duque said.

He also advised travelers to seek medical attention immediately if they manifest symptoms of respiratory illness.

“I urge travelers with symptoms of respiratory illness, either during or after travel, to seek medical attention immediately. I also call on our health facilities to enhance standard infection prevention and control practices, especially in our emergency departments. We must always be ready,” Duque said.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to more serious infections such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

Monitoring

The Bureau of Quarantine is working with airlines and airport authorities to strengthen border surveillance while the Epidemiology Bureau is heightening its community surveillance.

"Atong i-assure atong mga kaigsuonan nga atong Bureau of Quarantine ug ang atong health department sa syudad sa Sugbo… sa whole province of Cebu… nga inubanan sa uban pang mga kalungsuran… aduna kitay gibantayan (I assure Cebuanos that our Bureau of Quarantine and health department here, as well as local government units, are monitoring)," Bernadas said.

DOH is also enhancing its coronavirus laboratory testing capacity, hospital preparedness, rapid response, and its risk communication and information dissemination.

DOH is monitoring closely individuals who manifested signs of respiratory infection and had a history of travel to China and is coordinating with WHO and China Center for Disease Control for updates.

Three individuals with flu-like symptoms have entered the country from China via the Kalibo International Airport but reportedly did not travel to Wuhan and did not have any known contact with a confirmed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) case, Severe Acute Respiratory Illness case, or sick animals.

Throat samples from these patients were already sent to RITM for testing. All three cases are currently well and are no longer manifesting any symptoms.

China Situation

On December 31, 2019, a clustering of pneumonia cases of unknown etiology was reported in Wuhan, China.

The outbreak was later determined to be caused by a 2019-nCoV, a new coronavirus strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

To date, two hundred twenty-two (222) 2019-nCoV cases were reported in China, majority coming from Wuhan, with cases also coming from cities such as Beijing and Shenzhen. Thailand, Japan, and South Korea also reported confirmed cases.

Initially, the said disease was thought to be transmitted through animal contact but recent reports show human-to-human transmission of 2019-nCoV.

What is Coronavirus

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. These are common among animals, thus, scientists call them zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans. Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s.

Coronavirus Symptoms

Coronavirus symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a couple of days.

The elderly and the very young, whose immune system is weak, are considered vulnerable to the virus. They are likely to develop a more serious respiratory tract illness like pneumonia or bronchitis.

Among the human coronaviruses that are known to be deadly are:

•Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS virus. It was first reported in the Middle East in 2012 and also causes respiratory problems, but those symptoms are much more severe. Three to four out of every 10 patients infected with MERS died.

•Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, also known as SARS, is the other coronavirus that can cause more severe symptoms. It was first identified in the Guangdong province in southern China. It causes respiratory problems but can also cause diarrhea, fatigue, shortness of breath, respiratory distress and kidney failure.

How it Spreads

Viruses can spread from human contact with animals. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that MERS started in camels while SARS with civet cats.

When it comes to human-to-human transmission of the viruses, often it happens when someone comes into contact with the infected person's secretions. Depending on how virulent the virus is, a cough, sneeze or handshake could cause exposure. The virus can also be transmitted by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

Coronavirus treatment

Until now there is no known specific treatment of the virus. Health officials say symptoms will just go away on their own most of the time. 

Drinking plenty of fluids and getting a good rest and sleep are recommended.

How to prevent it

There is no vaccine to protect against this family of viruses. Department of Health officials said that the best way to prevent it is by avoiding people who are sick. It is also recommended to practice good hygiene by washing your hands often with soap and water.

According to DOH, sick people should stay at home and avoid crowds and contact with others. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and disinfect the objects and surfaces you touch.

Source: DOH and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention JMO (FREEMAN)

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