“If you have colds or a cough, then do wear a surgical mask, so you do not transmit your cough or cold to other people," says Dr. Edsel Salvana. Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters

An infectious diseases expert separates fact from fake news on the novel coronavirus

At this point, the best way to arm ourselves from this infectious disease is to ensure that we are getting our information from credible health authorities.
Rhia Diomampo Grana | Feb 05 2020

The proliferation of fake news, myths, and misconceptions related to 2019-nCoV (novel coronavirus) prompted Dr. Edsel Salvana, an infectious diseases specialist from the University of the Philippines General Hospital (UP-PGH), to make necessary clarifications via social media.

In his Facebook post this Tuesday morning, Dr. Salvana, pointed out that there are so much misinformation about the 2019-nCoV going around. Thus, he urged the public to ensure that the current information they are getting are accurate, as things change quickly.

One of the things that Salvana stressed is that only the Department of Health (DOH) officially confirms or clears novel coronavirus cases. “All other assertions are FAKE news. Persons under investigation (PUIs) are NOT confirmed cases, they are people with symptoms who MAY have been exposed,” his post reads. At the time the post was written, more than 30 PUIs have been cleared as they tested negative for the virus. He insisted that the public constantly check the DOH’s website for 2019-nCoV updates.

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Dr. Salvana also noted that wearing a mask for the general public who do not have symptoms is optional. “If you have colds or a cough, then do wear a surgical mask, so you do not transmit your cough or cold to other people. If you have been to China, Hong Kong, or Macau in the last 14 days, please contact health authorities for instructions,” he advised.

The doctor also pointed out that the correct mask to wear to protect ourselves from the 2019-nCoV is a surgical mask—“colored side always out.” He added that N95 masks should not be used by the general public since these are reserved for doctors, need to be specially fitted, and are very uncomfortable. He reiterated that “cloth masks do not filter droplets well and can give a false sense of security.”

Dr. Salvana reiterated that cloth masks do not filter droplets well and can give a false sense of security. ABS-CBN News Photo

He also explained that assertions that we are protected from 2019-nCoV because of our warm climate are fake. “Many countries with warm climates already have cases. The transmission is most likely via droplet transmission through close contact. This means that the risk is limited to within six feet from a person who sneezes or coughs. The virus does not last very long outside the human body, BUT if you inhale the droplets or it lands on mucous membranes like the eyes or inside your mouth, you CAN get infected. It CAN persist for a few hours on environmental surfaces, INCLUDING on the surface of clothing and masks and so always WASH YOUR HANDS and avoid touching your eyes or putting your fingers in your mouth or nostrils.”

Meanwhile, he cleared that reports of using HIV drugs for 2019-nCoV are anecdotal—“meaning, it has been used on a few cases, some of whom have recovered.” However, there is no definitive proof that these drugs work; these are still being studied by scientists. He advised, “Please DO NOT take any HIV meds without advice from your doctor. Only SPECIFIC classes of HIV meds MAY have activity, so DO NOT experiment. nCoV also DOES NOT make HIV tests positive if you do not have HIV.”

Dr. Salvana also noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) is aware that there is likely asymptomatic (show no symptoms) transmission, but this is likely in a minority of cases. “This is an area of intense investigation, so continue to monitor and follow instructions on the latest recommendations for protecting yourself.”

He also requested the public to stop asking the DOH for details on PUIs. He reiterated, “These are protected by the privacy act and there are security concerns. Information is released on a need-to-know basis. If you just want it for general tsismis, go watch Netflix instead.”

Finally, Dr. Salvana urged the everyone to do our part in helping our government protect us in these times of public health emergency. “Whether or not you like the government, they have a job to do and the only alternative is to panic and run around in circles—which solves nothing. Our front line healthcare workers are in harm’s way so let’s support them by following instructions, not sharing or making fake news, and praying for their safety,” he concluded.

For updates on the Wuhan Coronavirus, visit DOH.gov.ph.