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Surpassing the impending threats of COVID-19

By: Reine Amabel J. Jaruda and Kristin Clarisse H. Mateo

The rapid spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has become a global source of panic and worry among citizens and governments alike. Caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), it is an infectious disease with symptoms that include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and difficulty breathing.

The outbreak started on November 2019 when the first known transmissions of the disease were traced to a wet market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Because of not being able to contain the virus locally, it has since spread across all continents and infected almost half a million people. 

On March 11 of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the outbreak a pandemic - defined as an epidemic that transcends boundaries and affects many people. 

As COVID-19 continues to penetrate through the global population, medical experts warn that people should take caution and safety over panic. It is also best to be more informed of what the virus is and how it could possibly spread. With that being said, the medical experts inform the public that the transmission of the virus can be through droplets of bodily fluids, such as saliva or mucus. These droplets can be dispersed in the air or touch surfaces by coughing or sneezing. A person may come into direct contact with the virus when they touch infected surfaces then their face. 

Once the virus enters the body, reaches one’s respiratory tract, and makes the lungs its primary target before spreading throughout the body. Thus, the lungs are checked by doctors for complications and infections.

During a phone interview with Dr. Ferdinand S. De Guzman, a medical specialist IV and chairman of the Family Medicine Department at San Lazaro Hospital, Manila, he confirmed that they have coined COVID-19 as I.L.I or an “influenza-like illness”, but they have a checklist that differentiates COVID-19 from the typical flu – especially when the patients have a travel history or are exposed to people who are confirmed to have COVID-19. Persons positive with COVID-19  are recommended to stay in or proceed to hospital that are better prepared for the diseases to lessen the risk of transmitting the disease to other people.

COVID-19 is less communicable than measles and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), based on the number of other people one patient can infect. Though not airborne, professionals at San Lazaro Hospital are taking airborne precaution because viral transmission occurs as air drives the droplet to a certain direction.

According to Dr. De Guzman, one COVID-19 patient can infect two to three persons. Based on the records of the confirmed cases, this infectious disease is more likely to affect older patients. From a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most and 1 the least for COVID-19’s effect on the patients, Dr. De Guzman stated that “the older the patient is na mayroon comorbidities, may bisyo, it would become 10 kasi pwede siyang maging pneumonia, which can be a cause of death.

As for the facilities, Dr. De Guzman shared that “the healthcare industry is dependent on the support from the government, the funding,” In addition, he mentioned that the Universal Health Care Law has just been partially implemented and PhilHealth’s response to COVID-19, so there is still a need for improvement regarding the country’s healthcare system.

Fighting the spread of the virus

In order to further prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is highly recommended for people travelling from areas with a history of the virus to self-quarantine for 14 days until they are deemed negative for the disease as a person may remain asymptomatic within this time frame. 

When asked whether travelers coming from other countries should be quarantined, Dr. De Guzman responded that it would be best to do so, especially when he/she has the symptoms of the transmittable disease. “Kapag may symptoms siya, kapag may history of travel tapos mayroon siyang sipon, lagnat, [at] ubo, it would be best for him to consult sa hospital,” he said, insisting that if a person must be admitted if necessary. “Kasi, two reasons: for the good of the patient para mabilis ang recovery niya and, second, para hindi siya nakakahawa kung if given the case of COVID-19,” the doctor explained. He also added that it is important to see the checklist of symptoms as the disease is a threat to public health. 

Not [all] people are created equal. Iyong mga katawan natin hindi pantay-pantay ang pag-respond natin sa infection, so I would advise na makakatulong ang mask whether surgical or medical mask,” Dr. De Guzman remarked about wearing a protective mask. For those in the health sectors, he added that N95 masks are helpful in protecting themselves from COVID-19. 

Additionally, he said that the public should always consider the sanitation of the environment that they are visiting and avoid borrowing things from others because it can be a source of infection. He reminded everyone that social distancing should be applied, considering the government’s major move that is a community quarantine, because crowded areas can be a source of the virus. “Sumunod po tayo [sa] community quarantine because this is the number one strategy against [COVID-19] in favor of social distancing,” he advised. 

Aside from the mentioned considerations, Dr. De Guzman shared that people must be vigilant of the misconceptions on the treatment of COVID-19, such as drinking alcohol and eating garlic, are being passed on via social media without proper basis. “Lately, ang mga misconceptions ay not about the disease, but about the treatment, so ngayon is under experiment pa kung ano ang pwedeng anti-viral,” he disclosed.

With the confirmed cases of local transmission in the country, it is best to take precautionary measures by maintaining proper hygiene, getting enough rest, taking vitamins, eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals, stopping vices, wearing surgical or medical masks, and applying social distancing. 

Dr. De Guzman reminded everyone that wellness should not be just for the spread of COVID-19. “It should start when you’re young. It does not start kung kailan lang mayroong COVID-19. Wellness should always be practiced every day,” the doctor parted.

We are survivors, so I think we will survive this [health] crisis.” he assured. 

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