With the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) spreading to countries around the world, here’s what you need to know about symptoms, preventive measures, and travel guidelines.

Last January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This declaration of a global health emergency was made “in view of significant increases in numbers of cases and additional countries reporting confirmed cases.”

Here’s what you need to know about the novel coronavirus: what it is, how to protect yourself, and travel guidelines.

What is the novel coronavirus? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the novel (or new) coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus identified as “the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.” In the beginning, many of these patients allegedly had some connection to a seafood and animal market in the area, which suggested an animal-to-person spread. However, there are a growing number of cases of patients who reportedly did not have exposure to animal markets, indicating that person-to-person spread is occurring.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can be mild to severe and can include

  • fever
  • cough
  • shortness of breath

In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death. These symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure.

How is it transmitted?
Most often, spread from person-to-person can occur within six feet of contact. Person-to-person spread is thought to occur when an infected person coughs or sneezes, releasing respiratory droplets into the air that can be inhaled by those around them.

As of this writing, the novel coronavirus has spread to the following countries: Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, Germany, Taiwan, United States, Macau, Malaysia, France, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Italy, Russia, Philippines, India, United Kingdom, Nepal, Cambodia, Spain, Finland, Sweden, and Sri Lanka.  The John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) has developed an online dashboard to visualize and track reported cases daily.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough.
  • If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible. Stay home if you can.
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early. Share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue. Immediately throw away the tissue and wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs. Clean items you touch frequently, like your mobile phone, eyeglasses, doorknobs, light switches, etc.
  • Avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products. Thoroughly cook your food and practice food safety when preparing your meals.
  • Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.

It’s also good to stay informed. Because the virus is so new, there is not much known about it yet. Public health organizations such as the WHO and the CDC continue to investigate, so check their websites for updates.

What travel guidelines should you be aware of?
As of this writing, these are the countries and airlines that are restricting travel to China.

In the Philippines, the temporary ban covers the following:

  • The entry of any person, regardless of nationality, except Filipino citizens and foreigners holding permanent resident visas issued by the Philippine government, directly coming from China and its special administrative regions (SARs) Hong Kong and Macau
  • The entry of any person, regardless of nationality, except Filipino citizens and holders of permanent resident visa issued by the Philippine government, who within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines, has been to China and its SARs
  • Temporary ban on Filipinos from traveling to China and its SARs

The Department of Health, (DOH), in coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has set up a WeChat Hotline that Filipinos in China may contact for information and medical assistance. Filipino doctors, psychologists, and nurses will be handling all calls and messages.

The DFA has also released a public advisory listing the hotline numbers for Filipinos in China.

As with all crises, let us all try to remain calm. Protect yourself by following health advisories and guidelines. Get your information from trusted news sources. Keep yourself updated, and keep yourself healthy.