April 24, 2024

The fear brought about by the 2019 novel corona virus (n-CoV) outbreak is a lesson for the public to enhance their health consciousness and their health-seeking behavior. At the same time, it must be a reminder that public vigilance against any disease, not only when there are outbreaks, must be a way of life.
By being vigilant, we mean people should take extra precautions and consult health experts early on when manifesting symptoms and signs of the virus infection, and follow the advice of authorities. The public should also be cautious about believing in and passing on unverified information or reports or those that were manipulated by individuals whose intention is simply to spread lies.
The Department of Health reported on Jan. 30 the first confirmed case of the 2019 n-CoV, a woman who has a history of travel to Wuhan, China from where the strain originated.
As the global health arena is facing huge challenges in managing the concern brought about by the 2019 n-coV outbreak in China, Filipinos should also educate themselves about coronavirus in general, and the particular strain traced to Wuhan, a city with more than 11 million population.
For one, experts in the medical field have since clarified that coronaviruses are not new. The World Health Organization explains coronaviruses are the causes of respiratory infections, which range from the common cold to the more complicated diseases like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS-CoV and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or MERS-CoV.
The 2019 n-CoV that left hundreds of dead in Wuhan and infected thousands is the coronavirus strain that is yet to be identified.
The alarm caused by the DOH’s confirmation of the country’s first case is understandable. People will naturally be disturbed. But the best weapon against the infection remains with the individuals. The least we could do is abide by the advice of international and national health agencies on how to be protected from the disease.
We are, of course, counting on the government to do its best to contain the spread of the infection, which is now a global health concern. But we could also help authorities manage the situation by observing the protocols they have been issuing, which, by the way, are elementary.
The recent decision of the city government of Baguio after consultation with health experts and other authorities in resetting the scheduled grand opening of this year’s Panagbenga celebrations and other crowd-drawing events aims to protect public health and to allay public fears on the influx of tourists from places with confirmed coronavirus cases.
Observing basic hygiene and coughing etiquette, avoiding crowded places, avoiding direct and unprotected contact with live animals or eating raw meat products, and seeking medical attention are basic measures that the government asks the public to follow to be protected from the risks of the 2019 n-CoV.
While we urge the government to continue being transparent about statistics and measures done to address the health concern, the public should also be transparent and inform authorities about their exposure to the infection, or seek immediate medical help if they are manifesting symptoms.
Preventing the spread of the novel virus is a two-way process. The public has the responsibility to implement protective measures in the same way that the government is mandated to effectively manage cases and safeguard public health.
If there is a need to impose a travel ban on people coming from China or cancel Philippines-China flights, so be it. At this point, the government should not compromise the health of its people.