By Noreen Jazul
The new strain of coronavirus has caused global alarm with 26 deaths recorded in China, and with cases reaching other Asian countries and the United States.
With experts still identifying how the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is being transmitted, where it is coming from, and its clinical spectrum, the public is advised to follow these precautionary measures:
1) Avoid eating raw or uncooked food
The World Health Organization (WHO) in its preliminary epidemiological investigation noted that outbreak of the virus was “associated with exposures in one seafood market in Wuhan,” China, floating theories of an animal-to-human spread.
WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindara Abeyasinghe, in an interview with ANC on Jan. 23, said it was also “safe to assume” that 2019-nCoV is “linked to an animal product.”
To avoid a possible animal-to-person transmission, the WHO said the public, specifically travelers, should avoid eating raw or uncooked “animal products.”
“Raw meat, milk, or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices,” the WHO said.
The Ministry of Health of Singapore, where one case of novel coronavirus was confirmed, has likewise advised their nationals to avoid consumption of raw meat.
2) Avoid direct contact with live animals
Underscoring the link of most cases to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which has been temporarily closed, health experts said it is best not to touch live animals.
“When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals,” the WHO said.
In a Jan. 21 interview with CNN, Dr. Karl Henson, an adult infectious disease specialist from the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, particularly mentioned avoiding touching “live poultry or any exotic animal.”
German media Deutsche Welle (DW) also reported that “surfaces” that were in contact with animals should be avoided as well.
3) Observe proper hygiene and hand washing
Health experts across the world have continuously reiterated the importance of observing proper hygiene, especially hand washing.
The WHO told the public to “frequently clean hands” with the use of alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Dr. Henson said “hand hygiene” is very important as the virus can be “passed on through secretions and through hands.”
“[If you] touch the infected secretions of a person and you touch your nose, [you can also be infected],” he said.
Singapore’s health ministry also advised that washing of the hands must be done “before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing.”
4) Practice good cough etiquette
Dr. Henson reminds persons with cough to wear a mask or cover their mouths when coughing.
“In general, viruses that can cause respiratory infections are transmitted through droplets, meaning infected saliva or a cough that when you spew out saliva, then the person inhales it,” the infectious disease specialist explained.
WHO said tissue paper can be used to cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing, given that the tissue will be disposed of immediately.
5) Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of the 2019-nCoV virus
Among the symptoms of those infected by the novel coronavirus are fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.
WHO said it is better to distance yourselves from persons manifesting these symptoms.
6) Seek medical help
Those feeling unwell or experiencing fever, cough, and shortness of breath are urged to seek medical attention.
When seeking medical help, the WHO urged the public to also “share previous travel history” with their respective healthcare providers.
Dr. Henson noted that the 2019-nCoV is “like the other coronavirus that can cause respiratory symptoms.”
It is not advisable to self-medicate, he said, noting that some patients often turn to antibiotics to counter disease.
Henson said “in most cases of viral infections,” antibiotics are not needed. “The only reason for one to get an antibiotic is if the doctor determines that after a flu or a viral respiratory infection, you would develop a secondary bacterial infection.”