“Social distancing is key” to help prevent the spread of coronavirus disease.
This is the advice that five U.S. medical experts hope people would take seriously.
Social distancing, according to cidrap.umn.edu, refers to public health measures taken to restrict when and where people can gather in order to stop or slow down the spread of infectious diseases.
On March 10, 2020, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine gathered medical experts seeking ways to address the rise of COVID-19 patients in the U.S.
The UCSF medical experts believe that avoiding large crowds or mass gatherings—where people are susceptible to human-to-human transmission of the virus—is a big step in containing the virus.
"Avoid concerts, movies, crowded places. We have canceled business travel," they are quoted as saying by a person who took down notes during the panel discussion.
Given the number of senior citizens diagnosed with COVID-19, the U.S. medical experts are considering this: "Anyone over 60 stays at home unless it’s critical."
People at UCSF are also said to have decided to move their "at-risk" patients from nursing homes back to their own homes to be taken care of.
"They are not letting them out of the house."
THE medical PANELISTS
Among the panelists were Joe DeRisi, Emily Crawford, Cristina Tato, Patrick Ayescue, and Chaz Langelier.
Joe DeRisi is a biochemist and UCSF’s top infectious disease researcher. He is the co-inventor of the virus chip used to identify the deadly illness called SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003. He is also co-president of ChanZuckerberg BioHub, a research center involving UCSF, University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.
Emily Crawford is the COVID-19 task force director whose focus is on diagnostics or detecting the novel illness.
Cristina Tato is an immunologist tasked to be the rapid response director.
Patrick Ayescue is an epidemiologist tasked to lead outbreak response and surveillance.
Chaz Langelier is a UCSF infectious disease doctor.
At a time when everyone is susceptible to COVID-19, these seemingly simple but crucial questions were discussed: “What should we do now? What are you doing for your family?”
The problem, the UCSF panelists say, is that it “appears one can be infectious before being symptomatic.”
This means that a person who shows no signs of COVID-19 can unknowingly carry the virus and transmit it to another person.
But COVID-19 is said to be most contagious when patients are sickest and are showing symptoms of the illness.
"We don’t know how infectious before symptomatic, but know that highest level of virus prevalence coincides with symptoms.
"We currently think folks are infectious 2 days before through 14 days after onset of symptoms."
ON SURFACES CONTAMINATED WITH THE VIRUS
How long will the virus last on surfaces?
The experts’ answer: "On surfaces, the best guess is 4-20 hours depending on the surface type (maybe a few days) but still no consensus on this.”
While most documented cases of COVID-19 were acquired from human-to-human transmissions, people are advised to practice proper hand hygiene should they come in contact with surfaces contaminated with the virus.
As much as possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth without sanitizing your hands first.
The UCSF medical experts reiterate the importance of washing hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Or, alternatively, using hand sanitizer with a 60-percent alcohol content.
The good news is: “The virus is very susceptible to common anti-bacterial cleaning agents: bleach, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol-based [products]."
THREE ROUTES OF INFECTION
Still, according to the UCSF panelists, the novel coronavirus may be transmitted via three routes of infection: hand-to-mouth or hand-to-face transmission, aerosol transmission, and fecal-to-oral transmission.
Hand-to-mouth transmission is when a person comes into contact with a surface contaminated by the virus.
Aerosol transmission (airborne) occurs when a person is exposed to a contaminated person in closed spaces and inhales a high concentration of the virus-laden particles that collect in air.
(Previous reports say that the more common human-to-human transmission happens via droplet transmission, or when the virus travels through respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale.)
Fecal-to-oral transmission happens, with the virus detected in fecal or stool samples from COVID-19 patients.
ON home QUARANTINE & when to seek a doctor
What if someone gets sick?
A UCSF newsletter, dated February 28, lists some of the symptoms of COVID-19 infections.
Symptoms may range from "very mild to severe respiratory illness" and may include "fever, cough, and shortness of breath."
Other COVID-19 patients have also developed "severe pneumonia," the newsletter adds.
In the March 10 panel discussion, the UCSF medical experts explain that staying at home or undergoing self-quarantine is possible for those suffering "mild symptoms" of COVID-19.
"If someone gets sick, have them stay home and socially isolate.
"There is very little you can do at a hospital that you couldn’t do at home. Most cases are mild.
However, those with underlying "respiratory and cardio-vascular illnesses" are advised to seek immediate medical help.
"But if they are old or have lung or cardio-vascular problems, read on.
"If someone gets quite sick who is old (70+) or with lung or cardio-vascular problems, take them to the ER [emergency room]."
For now, there is still no cure for COVID-19.
"There is no accepted treatment for COVID-19.
"The hospital will give supportive care (e.g. IV fluids, oxygen) to help you stay alive while your body fights the disease (i.e. to prevent sepsis)."
UCSF medical experts add that getting pneumonia or flu shots may be helpful, but this is still not considered a preventive measure for COVID-19.
They underline that it only "reduces your chance of being weakened, which makes COVID-19 more dangerous."
COVID-19 STATUS IN THE U.S.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website, the U.S. has a total of 1,629 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 41 resulting in deaths.
At this point, the panelists from UCSF say that their main concern is not just containing the spread of COVID-19.
They are planning ahead to how to provide health care should COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the next "12 to 18 months."
The UCSF medical experts say: "Now we’re just trying to slow the spread, to help healthcare providers deal with the demand peak.
"In other words, the goal of containment is to 'flatten the curve,' to lower the peak of the surge of demand that will hit healthcare providers.
"And to buy time, in hopes a drug can be developed.
"How many in the community already have the virus?
"No one knows. We are moving from containment to care."
COVID-19 STATUS IN THE PHILIPPINES
In the Philippines, there are 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 5 p.m. this Saturday, March 14.
Two cases have resulted in deaths; two others in recovery.
On March 12, President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila under a "community quarantine" or a "lockdown" from March 15 to April 14.
It is the government's chosen containment—or social distancing measure—to avoid the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.
Classes are suspended, work-from-home systems are recommended, and mass gatherings are prohibited.
A memo released earlier today, March 14, also states that only work-related meetings and religious activities may continue to be held.
However, a distance of at least a one-meter radius among those attending shall be strictly followed.
An excerpt from the President's earlier message: "The crisis is very, very clear. COVID-19 is spreading all throughout the country.
"Ang ano natin dito, there is no cure.
"Wala naman tayong tayong mabili sa mga botika, pharmacy to buy the medicines to cure COVID-19."
Despite the uncertainties brought about by the novel coronavirus, President Duterte tells the people to follow what the government thinks is the best way to address the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
"Do not panic. Huwag kayo masyadong mag-panic na parang hindi niyo na magawa ang gusto niyong gawin.
"Puwede pa rin tayo, pero may restrictions tayo dahil nga sa crisis."