As of the latest count from the Department of Health (DOH), there are growing cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Philippines. The DOH has raised a Code Red Sublevel 1 due to a confirmed case of local transmission and President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a state of public health emergency due to the threat the virus brings to our country.
Why we should not panic that COVID-19 is in the Philippines
Many cannot help but panic because of these new developments, but there are many reasons to be reassured that we will be able to contain and fight the virus. This includes the fact that around 80% of those who become infected with the virus may recover from the disease without needing special treatment, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Here’s what we know about COVID-19 and what can be done to fight its spread:
1. The disease was immediately identified.
This new strain of the coronavirus, a mysterious respiratory disease that caused cases of severe pneumonia and which is believed to have originated from Wuhan, China, was identified within seven days after the official announcement on December 31, 2019. According to Ignacio López-Goñi, a professor of microbiology and virology at the University of Navarra in Spain, in his article for The Conversation, the gene sequence was also immediately available three days later. Experts have also noted that it is related to a virus found in bats. They have also verified that while the virus appears to mutate, its mutation rate is not very high.
2. There is a reliable test to identify the virus.
Since January 13, 2020, a test has been made available to identify those infected by the virus. In the Philippines, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is able to test suspected cases for COVID-19 and is accredited by the WHO. According to reports, the DOH is also coordinating with the WHO to help set up additional laboratories across the country that will become official testing centers for the virus.
In his Facebook account, Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana, M.D., DTM&H, FPCP, FIDSA, an infectious disease specialist and molecular biologist at the University of the Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital, shares that the DOH is reporting cases as soon as it can, “with some lead time for contact tracing so that people can quarantine themselves as soon as possible.”
For those wondering if the DOH is failing to identify cases, Dr. Salvana reiterates that even the best surveillance systems in the world miss cases. “There are WHO protocols that we follow. We have two surveillance systems. The first one is the one that identifies PUIs (persons under investigation) and PUMs (persons under monitoring). A second one, SARI (severe acute respiratory infections) looks for unexplained pneumonias and clusters of pneumonia in the community. This is how DOH picked up case #5 out of the 10. This was due to the excellent clinical judgment of a private infectious disease physician who decided to taste based on SARI principles.”
He adds, “The fact that DOH detected the 10 cases means that testing is being done. More than 700 people have been screened according to established WHO protocols. Due diligence is being observed.”
3. The outbreak in China is improving.
China’s lockdown and strict quarantine measures are paying off, according to López-Goñi. “For several weeks now, the number of cases diagnosed every day is decreasing,” he wrote. Meanwhile, infections in other countries are defined in clusters, so it can be more readily contained, reports The Guardian.
4. Infected patients can recover from the virus.
According to the WHO, COVID-19 sometimes does not present any symptoms and is mild for 80% of the cases. Thousands of people around the world are already recovering from COVID-19, according to this daily count maintained by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
5. Children with COVID-19 have milder symptoms and they are at very low risk.
Though the total number of confirmed cases has reached more than 100,000, the virus has mostly spared kids. In China, people under 20 make up only 3% of the cases. Doctors suspect that when children do get infected with COVID-19, “they get the relatively milder disease,” observes Dr. Malik Peiris, the chief of virology at the University of Hong Kong, in an interview with The New York Times.
6. Vaccines are being developed and various treatments are being tested.
To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat COVID-19, according to the WHO. However, some specific treatments are under investigation and are being tested through clinical trials. Pharmaceutical companies like Moderna, Inovia, Sanofi, and Novavax, as well as academic groups like the University of Queensland in Australia, are also working on vaccine prototypes.
7. We can help prevent its spread.
Dr. Salvana also advises that “the only thing that seems to have a major impact on transmission is social distancing.”
He adds, “We do not want to wait until we have a case load as high as Wuhan because even they had a hard time controlling and they have much more resources than we have. We need to think of preemptive social distancing now if we want to have a chance to contain [the virus].”
How can you protect yourself in the workplace from COVID-19? Click here for preventive measures.
* This story originally appeared on Smartparenting.com.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.