Editorial: Vigilance vs. virus

IN WUHAN, China where the mutant virus called the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first spotted, around 200 have already been infected and four lives have been claimed. The first identified cases were traced from a seafood wholesale market in Wuhan, and thus doctors initially found no proof of human-to-human transmission until recently.

Undetected, infected individuals carried the virus to Beijing, Shanghai and southern Guangdong. Worse, carriers have reached South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

Experts from the Chinese health agencies believe a larger outbreak will manifest soon, although with all precaution mechanisms in place, the momentum might slow down.

But close to home, we have our first probable case, a five-year-old, who arrived at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport on Jan. 12, 2020 from Wuhan, China. The boy had fever and throat infection, and was promptly brought to an undisclosed hospital. Routine laboratory tests of his blood samples revealed traces of the virus, and thus the Department of Health (DOH) sent a sample specimen to Australia to identify the specific coronavirus strain, on whether it is the 2019-nCoV or not. As of the moment, the boy is in stable condition and is relieved of fever.

Meanwhile, the DOH Central Visayas is now implementing a “double heightened alert status,” and has deployed 15 to 20 quarantine personnel to help in the monitoring. Thermal scanners have been set up in airports and seaports.

DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said they have added “implementation arrangements” with local government units, fielding epidemiologists in towns and cities. Travelers with symptoms of fever and cough are encouraged to wear masks. The coronavirus has an extensive family of viruses causing illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious infections. The more common signs include respiratory infections, fever, cough, shortness of breath, even difficulty in breathing. Hit hard, an individual may suffer pneumonia, kidney failure or a breakdown in the immune system that could even lead to death.

The DOH urges the public to practice frequent handwashing, avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals, stay away from others when coughing or sneezing, avoid close contact with people showing flu-like symptoms. It is also encouraged to ensure that food is cooked well.