PRACTICAL ADVICE. Dr Ian Christian Gonzales discusses the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) at Xavier Ateneo.
Report and photo by Karl Aparece
The Xavier University Health Services Office, in collaboration with DOH Region X, organized a talk about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) given by Dr Ian Christian Gonzales at the XU Little Theater, Saturday, February 1.
Dr Gonzales, a lauded alumnus who finished top 2 of his batch in XU Dr Jose P. Rizal School of Medicine, currently heads the management of various public health programs such as TB, HIV, dengue, rabies, and other infectious diseases in Northern Mindanao.
He clarified ongoing misconceptions about nCoV, as well as provided practical advice to the concerned populace.
Mapping the Novel Coronavirus
Gonzales said the 2019-nCoV is one of seven human coronaviruses, some of which are only responsible for the common cold. These viruses are characterized by the crown-like spikes around its surface.
Among these are the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). SARS-CoV, first recognized in China in November 2002, caused 8,098 probable cases and 774 deaths.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there have been no known new cases of SARS-CoV since 20041. On the other hand, MERS-CoV has caused a total of 858 associated deaths from 2,494 confirmed infections as declared by the World Health Organization (WHO)3.
The 2019-nCoV was first recognized in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Gonzales said the virus had its genome successfully sequenced in only two weeks, compared to two months for the SARS-CoV .
Its symptoms are the same with influenza-like illnesses and can prove fatal to people with existing ailments. As of January 31, there is a total of 9,856 confirmed cases and 213 confirmed deaths from nCoV.
If control measures are absent, an infected person can only infect at most around 2-3 persons as the virus is not airborne. Therefore, having proper hand hygiene is more important than the wearing of face masks.
With an “infectivity rate just like the flu and just as dangerous as measles with only a 2% fatality rate compared to SARS at 10% and MERS at 35%”, Gonzales assured that the Novel Coronavirus is not as deadly as its predecessors.
Philippines’ medical capacity in emergent diseases
As of February 2, the Philippines had reported the first case of nCoV death outside of China. The deceased is the companion of another confirmed case of n-CoV in the country, a 38-year-old female Chinese national who flew to Hong Kong from Wuhan City and thereafter went to Manila, Cebu, and Dumaguete.
Local airlines had already started contacting the passengers and crew aboard the flights taken by the couple for quarantine.
Moreover, there are currently 31 persons under investigation in the country who either traveled toHubei recently or came in contact with a person positive with the 2019-nCoV.
For Northern Mindanao, the lone suspected case in Camiguin Island was confirmed to be negative of the virus and the patient already discharged from Camiguin General Hospital.
Two more are being monitored in Cagayan de Oro City’s Northern Mindanao Medical Center for experiencing flu-like symptoms after travelling to China.
Gonzales assured that “NMMC and DOH are equipped to manage the case” and that the country is capable of handling the situation with protocols in place and materials in standby should the situation get dire.
The main focus as of now is on prevention. The first “line of defence” that Gonzales mentioned is thermal scanning in airports.
Everyone with a fever coming in the country will be directed immediately to quarantine personnel for further monitoring.
More preventive measures such as as disease surveillance coordinators and epidemiology units around the country regularly report any developments suspicious of the virus.
Gonzales reiterated the importance of communication by coordinating updates of the disease with the Department of Education to prevent the spread of misinformation.
Gonzales reminded participants to take preventive measure or HANDS, which stands for:
- Handwashing regularly
- Avoid crowds and wild animals
- Never cough without a handkerchief or tissue
- Don a mask if sick or in health care settings
- Seek early consultation