MANILA - Many Filipinos got worried about the possible spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus after a Chinese tourist from Wuhan tested positive for 2019-nCOV during her trip to the Philippines.
On Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque answered questions about the novel coronavirus to differentiate fact from fiction and help calm down hysteria about the illness.
CAN 2019-NCOV STICK TO METAL SURFACES AND LIVE FOR 12 HOURS?
DUQUE: Not only metal surface but many other surfaces. If the temperature is low and the humidity is also very low, then the inactivation of the novel coronavirus takes a longer time. If it’s a higher temperature and higher humidity like in the Philippines, it will be easier to inactivate.
I think there's been report of the virus surviving anywhere from 5 to 28 days.
CAN 2019-NCOV REMAIN ACTIVE ON FABRIC FOR 6-12 HOURS?
DUQUE: The only thing I can say is it is more difficult to inactivate it once the temperature is lower. That's why no small wonder that China, Japan, Korea--all cold countries--US, Germany, France--they were the first ones who in fact reported [novel coronavirus infections]. I believe that the climate has something to do with it.
IS IT TRUE THAT CORONAVIRUS FIRST INFECTS THE THROAT CAUSING DRYNESS WHICH LASTS 3-4 DAYS?
DUQUE: There's a truth to it. It's hard to say whether it's perfectly accurate. That's why you drink a lot of water. You keep your throat moist.
WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU COME IN CLOSE CONTACT WITH SOMEONE FROM WUHAN, CHINA SUSPECTED OF HAVING 2019-NCOV?
DUQUE: You are advised to do self-quarantine for 14 days and then the quarantine officer and surveillance officer will make sure that they know where you're staying. They will follow up on you.
There is no test kit that every doctor in his clinic can go [tell a patient]: "OK I am going to test you like I am going to test for NS1 antigen for dengue." Wala pang ganun. There are reports that some countries are fast-tracking the development. Until that is available, the only way we can do testing is via the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. It is the hospital that sends for confirmatory testing.
WHO ARE MOST AT RISK FROM 2019-NCOV?
DUQUE: The initial 40 or 50 cases that eventually died belonged to the elderly age group with underlying medical problems or coexisting illnesses--tumors, diabetes, emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular problems.
What we are afraid of about the novel coronavirus must be the same fear that we have to have for all the other viruses and bacteria.
IS 2019-NCOV AIRBORNE OR IS IT SPREAD BY DROPLETS?
DUQUE: The coronavirus more often than not spreads through direct contact through droplets, surfaces most commonly. If you touch your secretions, your nose, and then you touch fomites -- stuff, phone, hankies, pillow cases -- you can spread it there. The guy who next touches it can also get it.
You can also get it while in the process of sneezing and it gets aerosolized. Somebody passes by and accidentally breathes in that air that is contaminated. You can also get it that way.
The R-naught score of novel coronavirus is 3 to 4, which means one person can infect 3 to 4 people. This is small compared to measles, 1 is to 18. For coronavirus, it takes 6 to 7 days to spread it while SARS, it is 8 to 9 days.
CAN FACE MASKS HELP PROTECT AGAINST CORONAVIRUS?
DUQUE: This should be okay [against] the droplets, but [against] the virus itself, you have to use the N95.
A disposable face mask can be used for about 8 to 10 hours.
IS THERE A UNIQUE QUALITY OR SYMPTOM THAT DIFFERENTIATES 2019-NCOV FROM THE REGULAR FLU?
DUQUE: It's very difficult to make that differentiation. As a matter of fact, there is none (unique feature) as of the moment.
"This particular virus shares some characteristics with SARS. It affects the lower portion of the lungs. It has a propensity to stay in the lower part of the lungs, there's an enzyme there that it gets bound to. This is the angiotensin converting enzyme receptor II
which the virus seemed to be attracted to. That's why there are signs and symptoms of pulmonary infiltrates in the lower part of the lungs and slowly, eventually going up."
Duque stressed that viruses are notorious for mutation, and that personal hygiene and being more conscious about personal health are important tools in fighting the coronavirus.
"It will settle down, I believe. What we need to do are the practical points: washing of the hands, disinfectants, alcohol. We need to be careful. We need to be monitoring the situation because we don't know how this thing is going to turn out eventually."
"We haven't seen the end of this," he said.