I was randomly scrolling my phone when an alert pops out from my old cycling gym in Singapore. Apparently, they've been experiencing Coronavirus scare at the gym, and they are taking measures by requesting all the gym members to provide a medical certificate from the general practitioner upon the virus outbreak. The medical certificate is needed to state that they are healthy and not contaminated with the virus and able to continue cycling at the gym.
They were also upgrading their cleaning equipment to hospital-grade disinfectants and stepping up the cleaning frequencies. I was wondering how kooky this Coronavirus is, and at first, I was a tad bit questioning whether my soul-cycling gym is just being too paranoid, or is this outbreak is as bad as the newsstands telling us. But then when I asked my frequent traveller friend about the issue, and she said, even the stewards and stewardesses on her flight from Singapore to Hong Kong were using face masks while serving passengers, proving the outbreak scare is indeed happening.
When I look it up, Singapore headlines already confirmed 2 more new cases of this airborne disease, bringing the total number of infected people up to 18. The Ministry of Health also will provide every Singaporean household a pack of 4 masks starting from February 1st, 2020. Okay, we may panic now (or just move our concern from a subpar-level to a higher level).
Let's begin with a brief explanation of Coronavirus.
Coronaviruses are common in many different species of animals, including camels and bats. Rarely, these coronaviruses can evolve and infect humans and then spread between humans. Most coronaviruses infect animals, but not people. Yet, recently there's a pneumonia-like virus outbreak in Wuhan Province in China traced to be a newly discovered Novel Coronavirus that affected a large number of individuals. The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new strain of Coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.
With a meaning of 'recent' or 'new' from the late Middle English.
The new, or we may say, 'Novel' Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) had not previously detected before the outbreak was reported in Wuhan Province in China last December 2019. Though this virus came from the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), but it is not the same virus.
The Novel Coronavirus continues to spread across Asia and the rest of the world. The number of reported deaths toll in Mainland China itself has jumped rapidly from 100 deaths on January 28, up to 300 deaths on February 1. And as per today, the number has been escalating to 400 deaths, according to CNN World Live Updates. This has also caused nearly 60 million people to remain under lockdown in China.
Recent news has been reporting that Coronavirus has spread to other countries such as Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and now spreading to Southern Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. Other confirmed cases in Europe, Australia, and the United States of the viral outbreak have so far involved people who had recently been travelling to China.
Common signs of infection from this disease include respiratory symptoms, breathing difficulties, cough, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death.
Now, am I allowed to panic?
Not just yet, there must be a way to avoid contamination from this deadly disease. The World Health Organization has made standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to the transmission of the disease that we, humble civilians, can follow:
Basic protective measures against the new Coronavirus for the public:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider;
- When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel Coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
- The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
(Ah, no sushi or medium-rare beef steak for a while, then.)
Wash your hands (please)
Don’t forget to avoid all nonessential travel to affected countries when it's not necessary, — though it seems only logical.
But if you really need to travel, — please prepare your face mask
Sometimes you really can't postpone your travel plan (like attending an important meeting your company has been scheduled for a few months-- and your long-term success depends on it). Travelers who cannot delay traveling to affected countries should practice enhanced precautions, such as wearing face mask in public places, like airports and mass transportations.
And I strongly advise you to pack up a precautionary stocks of face mask before traveling. More often than not, if you travel to the affected country, face masks are the number one most likely to run out at the local stores. The news report shows a shortage of face masks supplies, as the locals tend to hoarder the available stock.
Also, be mindful if you get flu-like symptoms or high fever when you travel overseas. If you do have those symptoms, seek medical attention immediately and share your travel history to the medical personnel. Though it might not be serious, it is always better to be in full recovery before you travel back.
This virus outbreak had happened before with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or commonly known as the SARS epidemic in 2003. Though, medical experts have informed the media that the Coronavirus is not as infectious as SARS, considering the fatality rate is lower. I may understand the panic, as last time, SARS had infected 238 people in Singapore and killed 33, including doctors and healthcare workers who dealt with the infected patients. Fortunately for us, Asian countries now have prepared better to deal with the outbreak after learning such lessons from the SARS episode in the last decade. Now I understand how my old gym exhibited that level of paranoia.
Over-all, it's best to be alert with our surroundings, practice hand and respiratory hygiene, and consume healthy cooked food for a while. Stay healthy, folks!.
Infographics : https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public