Beating a curse
We can only cross our fingers, but it could be a matter of time before the previously unknown 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) becomes a worldwide pandemic.
As of this writing, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not want to consider it as such, but its Emergency Committee (EC), after two meetings on Wednesday and Thursday last week, remains on alert for the possibility of declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The EC is ready to reconvene anytime if and when needed.
The Philippines had a scare following a report about the five-year-old boy who came to study languages in Cebu. He was showing flu-like symptoms upon his arrival early last week, prompting the Department of Health (DoH) to send his samples to Australia for confirmation whether he was afflicted with the 2019-nCoV. His condition has since improved and was declared negative eventually.
Also, the national government has imposed a lockdown on air passengers arriving from Wuhan, China where the virus is suspected to have originated. It is now considered as the epicenter of the 2019-nCoV.
There had been about 50 deaths in China before the weekend, with nearly 1,500 confirmed cases in that country alone.
But 11 other countries have reported to have dealt with at least an 2019-nCoV patient, including the United States and France, where three patients were reported to have carried the virus to officially add Europe among the hosts of the viral spread.
China has imposed a lockdown on its major cities, preventing travel to and from these areas to be able to contain the spread of the virus as the gigantic country celebrated its Lunar New Year last Saturday. That was a monumental task in a country of more than a billion people.
The Chinese government has spread nearly 500 Army medical workers in Wuhan and its fringes to work on the health concern. A new hospital is being built for the purpose in what could probably be a record 10 days.
Its spread is coming at breakneck speed since it was detected only last December.
Local authorities are saying prevention is always better than cure. In these times of open access and ease of travel, it would take us tons of prevention and still feel unsafe.
China’s lockdown on the affected areas is commendable as it will somehow ensure no further spread is likely, although we can no longer be sure, reason for the WHO to keep alert and tracking the trajectories of the disease.
Common signs of infection related to the virus include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
The virus is similar to the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), said to be its cousin, that spread worldwide in 2002 and 2003 and claimed about 775. Hong Kong and China lost 648 of their SARS patients.
Counting SARS and the severe Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus(MERS-CoV), the country’s health authorities have responded well to such health issues in the past. And it is doing well now, it seems.
In 2003, SARS claimed two deaths in the Philippines — a visiting Filipino nurse and her father, whom she had infected with the virus. But it did not spread further, thanks to the DoH’s prompt response to the global alert.
The MERS-CoV also claimed two Filipinos. Both of them died in Saudi Arabia, where they worked.
The travel ban is the only potent solution lying before us to contain, if not stop, the entry of the 2019-nCOV in the country.
But it will do. There’s not much we can do to stop unseen particles in the air or in our friends’ hands, but the world does not stop with our fear of this new virus.
This health issue, however, will galvanize all countries with a stake on their people. There will be no talks of bombs and war and tariffs and all when cooperation is needed.
We can beat this one. There’s no doubt about it.
Viral and trending
I was traveling the weekend before the new coronavirus scare had erupted when, horror of horrors, I was stopped by a health check official at the Hong Kong airport because my temperature was too high.
A part of me was shocked because I have had a cold for so long already, it almost felt normal (bad, I know).
But the writer in me felt a spark of curiosity because I had always wondered what happens if one were stopped on his tracks by these masked people clustered around monitors, eyes glued on the arriving horde regurgitated by the airplanes.
So, what happens is, they take your temperature, one in each ear, and, if it is on “fever” levels like mine, you get asked a lot of questions.
Where have you traveled this past month?
Have you visited farms?
Touched any animals?
Touched any germ-carriers?
Where do you work?
What is your job?
Have you visited Wuhan?
Other than the fact that I was sorely tempted to crack jokes about the animal kingdom where all humans reside, and the many wild things I encounter even if I rarely get the chance to emerge from the chains of my desk, it was my first time to hear of Wuhan.
“Wuhan?” I asked.
The nurse interrogating me seemed relieved I asked.
It meant I did not come from that place suspected as the source of a deadly virus, and she could then let me go in peace (or to sleep off the fever in my room).
The world now knows Wuhan, and the scare associated with it has gone trending like nothing else from that central China province.
The coronavirus, common until it became “novel,” has now infected over a thousand and killed 41 people.
The speed in which the virus has spread reminds us of those scary outbreak movies, where whole populations are decimated by some kind of disease and the world is never the same again.
Who would have thought another mutation of this living organism would develop after the world had slayed the likes of SARS or MERS-Cov?
The new recorded deaths in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, have caused the Chinese government to tighten its security measures against a further spread of the virus.
Reports reveal that the “at least 444 new cases of the virus have been found, raising the total number to 1,287,” and that the “disease has spread to 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.”
To say that controlling a virus is unwieldy is putting it mildly. One might as well be holding water in one’s hands.
And so it goes that a massive quarantine effort has placed Wuhan and 13 other cities in Hubei in a lockdown. In spite of this, however, new cases have been reported in and outside of the quarantined areas.
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is said to have started from exotic animals. It is ironic that China, known for its medicinal practices, is once more the source of a virus much like SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which had killed about 900 across mainland China and Hong Kong sometime in 2002 to 2003.
Yet we all know technology or modern science has their limitations — like in most things, we can only struggle to catch up or to remain in place.
Right now, health experts are struggling to learn more about this unknown mutation.
And we, the hapless masked populace, can only try to cope with the new problem using age-old solutions.
Have you noticed? It brings us back to the very basic lessons our mothers always told us: always wash your hands properly, cover your mouth when you sneeze, be mindful of your surroundings — and pray for protection.
And if my recent health-check encounter was anything to go by, it was also to remind that we cannot take ordinary symptoms like fever and cough for granted.
Strange as it may sound, I am glad I have had this cold for some time — too long ago for it to be “novel,” but then again, too long already to alarm my antibiotic-toting loved ones who would like to see me stop barking at tissues, typical Dog that I am.