You can find more information on COVID-19 in the Philippines, here.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19, an infectious disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). It belongs to a large family of coronaviruses, which cause infectious illnesses, such as SARS—the last outbreak of which occurred in 2003 and MERS-CoV, which caused an epidemic back in 2012 and 2018.
Covid-19 in the Philippines: Where did it begin?
Before COVID-19 escalated into a pandemic, it was called the “novel coronavirus” and dubbed a Public Health Emergency of International concern by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The first reports of a mysterious respiratory illness first emerged from the city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of China back in December 2019.
Since then, cases spread to neighboring countries across Asia. Until eventually, despite travel restrictions and border control measures, practically all countries in the world reported their own number of infections.
And in just less than five months, COVID-19 cases soared past 3 million, with over 10,000 cases located in the Philippines.
On January 30, 2020, The Department of Health (DOH) reported the first cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines. The patient was a 38-year-old Chinese National.
The first death outside of China was reported in the Philippines on February 1, 2020. A man from Wuhan, China had travelled to the country and fell ill with COVID-19. Then eventually succumbed to the virus.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Where did COVID-19 originate?
Though it is still unclear how the outbreak exactly began in Wuhan, many have conjectured that it began because of unsanitary food preparation at a popular seafood market in the heart of the city.
A certain number of viruses have been found to travel from animals to humans, with COVID-19 being the latest addition to the list, as studies suggest.
In just a short span of time, COVID-19 made the leap from human-to-human, an evolution that suggests the virus is adapting quickly.
But what exactly causes viruses such as COVID-19 to leap from animals to humans?
There are two possible conditions needed for this to happen: first, a human must be exposed to a reservoir host (animals that naturally carry the virus) or animals that harbor the virus must become intermediate hosts, transmitting it from a reservoir host.
As the number of cases of coronavirus disease in the Philippines and around the world is steadily on the rise, we are getting a clearer picture of how this global threat behaves and adapts.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19?
Those who test positive for COVID-19 may experience a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to moderate respiratory illness to severe or critical conditions.
Symptoms are often mild and begin gradually. And those with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The most commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- dry cough
But other symptoms are:
- runny nose
- nasal congestion
- sore throat
- aches and pains.
And some of the less common symptoms are:
- Body pain
- Stomach pain
However, in more severe cases, COVID-19 can cause shortness or breath, or even organ failure.
A growing but limited pool of studies suggest emerging symptoms, such as losing one’s sense of smell or taste or developing “pink eye” or rash, but further analyses are needed to cement these findings.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
COVID-19 is transmitted through airborne droplets. This means that virus particles are expelled through mucus or saliva.
Theories vary as to how far COVID-19 droplets can actually travel.
Some say COVID-19 particles can remain airborne for three hours, particularly in hospital settings. Some recent studies are looking into the possibility that it can travel to up to 13 feet from the original source.
But according to recent research, COVID-19 particles are too heavy to remain suspended in air, emphasizes the World Health Organization (WHO). And they fall to the ground or nearby surfaces quickly.
But the WHO did, however, clarify that “airborne transmission” is possible in certain settings and circumstances, such as hospitals, where procedures that generate aerosols are performed. Examples of these are open suctioning of the airway, intubation, nebulization, or bronchoscopy.
How long can COVID-19 droplets remain on surfaces?
Though no research has confirmed how long COVID-19 particles can remain on surfaces, there are studies that have attempted to provide more definitive answers.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have analyzed coronaviruses in general. This may provide helpful hints as to how long COVID-19 droplets can really remain on surfaces.
Research has found that coronaviruses can remain on metal surfaces for 5 days, on wooden surfaces for 4 days, plastic for 2 to 3 days and stainless steel surfaces for 2 to 3 days.
Other studies have even found that coronaviruses can remain on cardboard boxes for 24 hours.
Who is Most at Risk for COVID-19?
When the first few cases began to emerge, it mostly affected the elderly—aged 60 and above—or those with chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension. But as the number of cases surged, it became increasingly apparent that even those under the age of 60 are also at risk.
On March 27, a 21-month-old baby girl tested positive for the virus, making her the youngest COVID-19 patient in the Philippines.
But there have also been cases of elderly patients, some as old as 95, who have recovered from coronavirus disease in the Philippines.
Coronavirus Disease in the Philippines: Preventive Measures
On March 7, the first COVID-19 local transmission was confirmed, prompting more widespread preventive measures, including an Enhance Community Quarantine across the Luzon region, which is home to over 53 million people.
In line with public advice given by the World Health Organization (WHO), preventive measures in the Philippines involve practicing hand and respiratory hygiene, avoiding touching the face, social distancing, disinfecting the environment, and seeking medical care if you experience COVID-19 signs and symptoms.
Aside from these preventive tips, we can also help minimize the spread of COVID-19 by boosting immunity through a nutritious, balanced diet, exercise, and adequate sleep.
To further encourage social distancing, the Philippine government, on March 16, 2020, declared a month-long community quarantine in the Luzon region. This involved restricting movement of individuals, suspending public transportation, and leaving only essential businesses and companies operational.
By limiting movement in Metro Manila and its surrounding areas, officials hoped to quell the surge of COVID-19 cases. This is in line with efforts to “flatten the curve,” which countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan have done quite effectively.
Flattening the curve means slowing down the spread and tempering the rise in infections.
In Italy, for instance, the rapid infection rate overloaded hospitals and the healthcare sector could no longer keep up with the influx of patients.
In a way, flattening the curve not only minimizes the number of infections, it can also provide enough time for care to be carried out efficiently, particularly in countries with overburdened healthcare systems.
The effects of COVID-19 on Mental Health
Though COVID-19 mainly affects the lungs, its effects run deeper. Because of isolation and uncertainty, the pandemic can trigger anxiety and depression.
Experts recommend doing constant mental health checks and to reach out to family and friends in order to maintain your mental and emotional health during the quarantine period. Taking breaks from reading the news can also help.
Anxiety due to COVID-19 can also be taxing on those with pre-existing mental health conditions. This is because it can trigger feelings of fear and uncertainty. Some experts call this “collective trauma” that the world has to process as we live through this unprecedented crisis.
When to get tested for COVID-19 in the Philippines
Due to a current shortage of testing kits, only those who are experiencing severe symptoms are tested for COVID-19. But with international aid and the diligence of local Filipino scientists, more testing kits should be released in the coming months.
The construction of testing centers, as well as quarantine hospitals, are also currently underway.
When will the cure or vaccine be available?
Without proper social distancing and quarantine measures, experts predict a surge in cases. As of this writing, several clinical trials seeking to find a cure or vaccine for COVID-19 are in progress across the world.
70 vaccines are now under development across the world, according to the WHO. Though it takes 10 to 15 years for a vaccine to be developed and safely introduced to the market, research scientists are hoping to release a COVID-19 vaccine within next year.
There are also treatments that have proven effective in managing COVID-19 symptoms.
Some studies have found that blood plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19 can help severe COVID-19 patients battle the disease through convalescent plasma therapy.
As the world races to find a cure for COVID-19, the global healthcare system is facing unprecedented strain.
And though the end to this pandemic seems to be nowhere in sight, and that each day just adds to our collective grief, how the world is uniting to battle the disease shows that we are ultimately headed in a promising direction.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.