"We are our own indirect protection against diseases."
While our nation deals with the possibility of an explosive Taal eruption, another threat looms. The new year came with the emergence of pneumonia-like respiratory disease coming from an alleged new strain of coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China. To date, there are more than 300 people in China afflicted with the said virus, while six individuals have died. Medical workers in China have started to get sick as well. Nearby Asian countries, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea, recorded their first cases of this new coronavirus infection—two in Thailand and one each in Japan and South Korea.
A notable pandemic suffered in Europe during the 1300s was the so-called Black Death. It was said to be one of the worst plagues which lead to the loss of millions of lives due to a deadly bacteria. The plague lasted for roughly four years. Despite such span of time, it led to labor shortage and setbacks in trade and commerce.
Perhaps the most recent fatal pandemic that we had recently was in 2003, when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) spread globally, killed 774 individuals, and infected more than 8,000 people from 29 countries. This fatal disease was caused by a different strain of coronavirus which also originated in China. SARS was believed to be capable of human-to-human transmission, and this led to the swift spread of the disease.
Scientists have recently discovered that the new strain of coronavirus is likewise capable of human-to-human transmission. This is alarming. This signifies that without taking proper measures, we are faced with yet another impending global epidemic.
Recently, three Chinese tourists in Kalibo, Aklan were reportedly quarantined in a hospital due to suspected infection. The tourists who were bound for Boracay, were found to have symptoms resembling flu. However, they were later discharged after their symptoms subsided and blood specimens have been obtained from them. Just this week, the Department of Health confirmed that a 5-year-old child in Cebu tested positive for coronavirus. The child, said to have come from Wuhan, China, arrived in Cebu last Jan. 12, 2020 and was seen to have experienced fever, sore throat, and cough. The child is currently under observation to determine whether the strain is the novel Wuhan coronavirus.
This Wuhan coronavirus is not something that should be taken lightly. Learning from our experience with SARS, are we now ready to control and suppress this potentially fatal virus? We must be more vigilant and careful in handling suspected cases. The Department of Health must be strict in adhering to the standard protocol for incoming visitors from countries with confirmed cases, especially since we have had an influx of Chinese tourists for the past couple of months. Many foreign visitors flock in most of our populous cities and tourist destinations. We cannot afford to be negligent nor lenient as to risk the safety and health of our fellow Filipinos.
As they say, prevention is always better than cure. Preparation goes a long way. Hence, I call on the Department of Health, especially the Bureau of Quarantine, to ensure that trained personnel and appropriate facilities that would house suspected cases are present in all entry points in the country. Perhaps, the government should also consider issuing travel advisories against those countries with confirmed cases. I also strongly urge the public to maintain proper hygiene and cleanliness in the environment. Given the demographics of our cities, crowded public transportation, and congestion in urban areas, observance of proper hygiene is our best weapon against communicable diseases. With the current plight of our fellowmen in the Southern Tagalog region who live in evacuation centers, we cannot afford one mismanaged case to cause an unimaginable fatal epidemic. Following the principle of herd immunity, we are our own indirect protection against diseases.