Duque: Still many blindspots in ‘novel coronavirus’

Janella Paris
Duque: Still many blindspots in ‘novel coronavirus’
Duque says being infected with a coronavirus is not 'an automatic death sentence' as there are coronaviruses that cause the common cold

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said much is still unknown regarding the novel coronavirus or 2019 nCoV, allaying fears that the new virus that has caused illness in China is certainly as threatening as the viruses that caused SARS and MERS epidemics years ago. 

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday, January 21, announced that it was investigating a case of “non-specific pancoronavirus” found in a 5-year-old child who traveled from Wuhan, China – the center of the outbreak – to Cebu City. This means that the child could be afflicted with the 2019 nCoV or any of the 4 other existing coronaviruses that can infect humans. (READ: ’Novel coronavirus’ or 2019 nCoV: What we know so far)  

Coronaviruses are known to cause a wide range of conditions from the common cold to the more severe SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle Easy respiratory syndrome).  

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, January 22, Duque said there are “still many blindspots on the novel coronavirus” and that the DOH is in constant communication with the World Health Organization (WHO) for definitive updates regarding the virus.  

Duque said being infected with a coronavirus is not “an automatic death sentence” as there are coronaviruses that cause the common cold. He added that the 5-year-old child in Cebu City is recovering, still with coughs but no longer feverish. 

But he added that the DOH is waiting for test results from the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Australia before it can rule out that the coronavirus found in the child is 2019 nCoV. They expect results to come out Thursday, January 23. 

The Chinese government on Wednesday warned that the disease may spread as the death toll hit 9 and the number of cases reached 440 across China. Cases have also been reported in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. 

Chinese officials have also said that the virus may be spread through human-to-human contact, though the WHO has yet to make a similar pronouncement. 

“Generally, coronaviruses spread via aerial droplets…through sneezing and coughing. That’s why personal hygiene, cough etiquette are very important, they will certainly reduce the chances of transmission,” Duque said.  

He also said illnesses caused by coronaviruses are “self-limiting” and that recovery may be quick given effective supportive treatment. The key is to strengthen the immune system, Duque said. 

The WHO will convene an emergency committee on Wednesday to discuss the novel virus to determine whether the recent outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern. The committee is also expected to come up with recommendations for management of the disease. – Rappler.com

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