TURNING POINT: The Wuhan Coronavirus: Prevention Still Remains the Cure

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 31 January) — The age-old solution to a life threat where protection from it is not yet developed is to run away from it. That is what has been happening in China especially near or around Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak of a disease caused by a novel corona virus. Those who could afford left immediately to safer places, while those who cannot are forced to stay and locked themselves in their homes in avoiding the contagion.

Health authorities are one in saying that the Wuhan corona virus is similar to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus which is zoonotic, that is, a deadly pathogen that spreads between animals and humans. And like the flu virus, the pathogen spreads via human secretion in saliva and mucus that may be released in droplets when an infected person coughs and sneezes. Those within the distance of 6 feet may likely catch the pathogens and get infected. The pathogen prefers moist places but may last in dry surfaces were it landed from 3- 12 hours. The hands of an infected person may have droplets of mucus and saliva when he coughs and sneezes, particularly when  he covers his mouth and  nose in doing it, which is  an automatic socially-developed reaction. The pathogen thus is spread to objects that he touches like doorknobs, food trays and table utensils, laptops and mobile phones and newspapers. Thus, when a healthy person touches any of those things, he will be infected.

Accordingly, the incubation period of the Wuhan corona virus is 14 days and is reported contagious even during its incubation period, whereby an infected person will not yet show symptoms of the disease that include high fever, severe dry cough, rapid breathing and shortness of breath.  Hence, he can still move like a healthy person in public places like in airport terminals beyond detection of health sensors. An ill person walks around infecting people with the disease without him and the new victims knowing it.

There is so far no vaccine or known cure for the Wuhan corona virus. Present efforts are mostly directed at infection control. Because it is impossible to run away from it without being caught, it is better to confront the threat by taking measures in averting the spread of the disease.

The following are ways to help control the spread of the disease culled from reports and recommendations of health experts:

  1. If going to public or crowded places can’t be avoided, wear a facemask and wear it correctly. Clinical studies have found that surgical masks used by health workers in hospitals are effective in shielding users from the droplets of saliva or mucus that come from coughing and sneezing, so long as it is used correctly.

Here’s how:

  1. The mask should cover the nose and the mouth and secure it to remain in such place by covering also the chin, adjusting the holding string to right tightness.
  2. At no time should the mask be touched until it is removed and disposed of.
  3. The used mask might be contaminated; one should hold only the string in removing it.
  4. The mask should not be recycled or re-used.
  5. The mask should, after use, be disposed of properly in secured trash bins or be burned at home if the user is homeward bound.
  1. It is practical to always assume that objects in public transports, like handle bars, trays, seats and headrests; and doorknobs of offices or restrooms are contaminated with the corona pathogen. Corona viruses that might have landed on surfaces from droplets of human secretion last longer, from 3 -12 days, than those of other illnesses. Avoid touching your mouth or rubbing your eyes with your hands while in these places, until you have disinfected your hands with alcohol-based sanitizer. And also wash hands with soap when there’s an opportunity.
  2. Nowadays, it’s not advisable to shake hands with strangers, even with friends. Touch knuckles instead of shaking hands; they will understand.
  3. Keep a distance from persons who show symptoms of respiratory viral infection.
  4. In long travel haul, especially inside a plane, take the seat close to the window. Studies have shown that passengers in the window seats are less prone to viral infection because they are relatively far away and  have less  contact with passengers and crew that maybe infected,  who move in the aisle.

There is no specific treatment yet for corona virus victims; research though is underway. According to medical experts, most of the time, symptoms may just go away on their own but advise seeking health care early. If one is feeling sick and symptoms feel worse than a common cold, one must see a medical practitioner.

Doctors can relieve symptoms by prescribing a pain or fever medication. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CRC) says a room humidifier or a hot shower can help one with a sore throat or cough.  Patients are advised to drink plenty of fluids, and to rest and sleep as much as possible.

The Wuhan coronavirus disease is contagious even during its incubation period that may last for 14 days. An infected person will not manifest the symptoms of the disease within this period and will move around like a healthy person. He cannot therefore be detected by current sensors in airport terminals. For the country to help  avert the worldwide transmission of the disease, there is need to temporarily ban the travel of tourists, Chinese nationals or not, coming  from  China, especially those originating from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and from those cities covered by Chinese government lockdown. The Chinese lockdown of 15 cities was a crucial and resolute effort to control the spread of the disease not only in China but throughout the world.

Barring tourists from those places to enter the country is supportive to the Chinese government’s decisive measure and would unlikely be considered by Beijing as discriminatory to its nationals. For it is definitely not, contrary to what some of our government officials have been saying. It is, in fact, a security and life-saving humanitarian measure aligned to Beijing’s, a policy the government can be proud of.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)