Coping with the virus


    CHINA and many other countries are reeling under the current pathogenic problem called 2019 novel coronavirus, the latest among the family of flu viruses that attacks the peoples of the world throughout the ages.

    The 2019-nCoV originated in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in Hubei province of China, in December last year. The latest count is that it has killed 81 individuals and has spread to some 2,000 persons, mostly in Wuhan and other places in China.

    With daily international flights simultaneously linking almost all countries of the world, cases of nCoV infection soon appeared in Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Paris, Japan, Macau, Singapore, Seoul, the United States and Vietnam.

    The Philippines, which is near China and which hosts thousands of Chinese workers in the offshore gambling industry called POGO, and thousands more as tourists every year, has been lucky for not officially finding a single case of the virus so far, although a few cases of suspected patients are now in isolation in several hospitals.

    There is no worse time than this for such an outbreak, since China, the Southeast Asian region and other places are celebrating the Lunar New Year. Millions of Chinese usually travel to visit families and friends for the long holidays and trains, planes, buses and all are busy ferrying passengers. It is in large crowds that the nCoV thrives and multiplies, and thus huge concentrations of commuters in train stations, ports and airports become a serious health security nightmare.

    The official response of the Chinese government in this outbreak has been the subject of both criticism and praise from various sources. China has implemented a lockdown of Wuhan and 18 other cities to contain the spread of the virus. The Chinese government mobilized all its health workers, doctors, nurses, and scientists to fight the virus and save the patients with first-rate hospital care. On January 25, Chinese doctors reported effectively treating patients with select HIV drugs. The next day, Xinhua news agency announced that the Chinese Center for Disease Control had isolated the 2019-nCov virus and started developing a vaccine.

    Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has noted that the death rate of one to 2 percent and the infection rate of 2,000 in China and the rest of the world are relatively low. Duque can say this because he compared the negative effects of this 2019 virus with the earlier SARS in 2002 and MERS-Cov outbreak in 2015 which are more virulent viruses.

    Our own government agencies – the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Immigration, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Manila International Airport Authority – are rising to the occasion and tackling this public health challenge with professional capability.

    It is reassuring that our agencies are in coordination with their counterparts in China and the World Health Organization.