Don't panic, practice personal protective hygiene amid COVID-19 threat, says health expert


Posted at Mar 10 2020 08:20 PM | Updated as of Mar 10 2020 09:24 PM

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MANILA - An infectious disease expert on Tuesday urged the public to remain calm amid the increased number of confirmed coronavirus disease patients in the country.

"We should not put panic in the way we are doing our daily work because panic and fear can only sway us from concentrating from what is more important part here," said Dr. Rontgene Solante, Adult Infectious Diseases & Tropical Medicine at the San Lazaro Hospital.

Solante said it is important to always practice personal protective hygiene such as hand washing, coughing etiquette, and less mobilization. He said those with suspected COVID-19 symptoms can ask their doctors for advice instead of taking unprescribed medicine.

The Philippines has at least 33 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 2 considered as local transmission.

"If you look at the definition of a sustained community transmission, then there should be clustering of cases in different parts of the area. It's not only in Greenhills, it's also Quezon City 2 or 3 cases that you cannot totally ascertain where these cases are coming from," he said.

He stressed that this is why contact tracing is very important for those who had direct close contact with currently positive patients.

Direct contact, he said, means those who had exposure from the time the patient was symptomatic.

"Anyone that he passed in terms of direct contact from the driver, from the one who took care of him and then brought him to the hospital and the doctor who saw him in the hospital, and then the nurses, including those around him, that can be a close contact of the COVID positive," he said.

The health department has declared a Code Red Alert Sub-Level 1 in the country while President Rodrigo Duterte 

President Rodrigo Duterte declared a Public Health Emergency over the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) following the health department's raising of Code Red Alert Sub-Level 1 in the country.

Duterte also suspended classes in all levels in the National Capital Region until March 14 to prevent the spread of the virus.

"The principle behind the suspension of classes or work is to keep the individual at home and less mobilization will also prevent and decrease the risk of exposure," Solante said.

But if class suspension is not effective and cases continue to surge, authorities would have to look for another strategy like suspension of work and or mass gatherings.

The trigger for the Alert Level 1, he said, was the localized transmission. To get to the next level, the trigger should be sustained community transmission.

"That can still be prevented," he said. "Aside from class suspension, you have work suspension, less mobilization of the mass transit and we call this a lockdown."

He also explained why people above the age of 60 are more susceptible to the virus.

"The immune system of a younger individual is robust and more competent to fight even the most virulent type of infection," he said. "When you reach 60 and above, that's the time your immune function may not be as good as that when you were 40 and 50 even in the absence of diabetes or other comorbidities. Age alone is a risk factor for the easy acquisition of an infection because of your decrease immune response."

He urged people who may have direct contact with a patient positive with the virus to do home quarantine for 14 days. Those without direct contact should practice preventive measures like hand washing and cough etiquette.

"It doesn't mean that if you have mild symptoms it's okay. The presence of a mild symptom can make the other person beside you vulnerable because you can also transmit the infection to the next person," he said.