Wednesday, January 22, 2020


The Philippines is no stranger to disease outbreaks. For decades past, the Department of Health has battled local flare-ups of such standard tropical ailments like dengue. It has also worked hard to prevent the entry into the country of some pretty nasty viruses. These efforts have varied from successful like with the H5N1 bird flu, or the limiting of impact such as with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which infected only 14 and killed 2 from 2002 to 2003. Now, the DOH is keeping a wary eye on the developing situation with a new coronavirus strain from China. On their recommendation, major airlines have started issuing necessary travel safety advisories.

CNN Philippines reports that a common advisory was given by Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific to their flying public, asking them to check on their health and physical condition, and to put off any air travel plans if they are feeling unwell. This is in response to the sudden fast spread of a novel coronavirus strain that can cause a potentially fatal respiratory disease. It is not surprising considering that this virus is in the same family as the aforementioned SARS and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), both of which are coronavirus strains as well.

The novel coronavirus, currently designated 2019-nCoV was first discovered during screening of medical samples from patients suffering from a sudden pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China since last year. Before long hundreds of Chinese have been tested positive for this coronavirus, and 17 of them have since died. But the worrying factor is how quickly it spread from Wuhan to various cities in China (Beijing, Guangdong and Shanghai), with more confirmed cases found in Thailand (Bangkok), Japan (Tokyo), South Korea (Seoul), and the US (Everett, Washington).

In light of these updates from the World Health Organization, Philippine Airlines has commenced non-intrusive screening of passengers departing and arriving at certain airports in the country. But for the most part they and Cebu Pacific are repeating safety tips from the Department of Health to protect oneself from catching disease and passing them on to others: washing hands frequently, covering the mouth during coughs and sneezes, regular water intake, cooking food well done, and the avoiding unprotected contact with wild animals and of people displaying symptoms similar to flu. Airports have also begun to implement possible quarantine procedures for suspected cases of 2019-nCoV, such as a boy from Wuhan that flew to Cebu City as an English language student.

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