WHO says COVID-19 patients with symptoms more contagious, PH right to focus testing on severe cases

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2020 12:35 PM

Medical staff attend to patients at a screening booth at the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Marikina City on March 23, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said the Philippines is doing the right thing in focusing its limited testing capabilities on people already showing symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as they are more contagious.

“Ninety percent of the disease is transmitted by symptomatic people. We need to focus expressly on those symptomatic people to maximize the benefit of the enhanced community quarantine that is being implemented,” said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines, during the Laging Handa briefing at Malacañang.

Abeyasinghe said those who have pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) should also be tested. ARDS is a kind of lung damage where fluid fills the lungs. This is often observed in severe COVID-19 cases.

“Our recommendations are that the limited testing that is available be used to strengthen the testing of people who are symptomatic with severe disease,” he said.

Abeyasinghe said testing symptomatic patients will not only help in the management of their case but also in quick contact tracing “to further limit the transmission.”

He said there is an important need to contact-trace people who are at risk for severe symptoms of COVID-19.

The Department of Health earlier said early detection raises the chance of surviving any illness.

While there are now reports circulating about doctors suggesting that people who lose their sense of taste and smell undergo self-quarantine, Abeyasinghe said it is not yet confirmed if these are COVID-19 symptoms.

“The focus should be on the clinical features of this disease - acute respiratory infection accompanied by fever and sore throat,” he said.

The WHO official reiterated that those who feel ill should “practice physical distancing, isolate themselves from other family members.”

He said the use of face masks are only recommended for those who are sick and those who care for the sick such as health workers.

As of Tuesday morning, there are 501 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Of this number, 19 have recovered and 33 have died.