OFWs in Middle East warned of Sars-like Coronavirus

Authorities have issued an advisory to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to be alerted against a SARS-like Coronavirus.

Doctors at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) quarantine section encouraged OFWs to observe proper personal hygiene to avoid getting the virus which is fatal if symptoms are not immediately treated.

Health officials in the Philippines are reportedly on alert for a possible entry of the deadly Coronavirus in the country.

According to reports, two cases have been recorded. A 60-year-old patient died in Saudi Arabia after the virus was confirmed in July. Another patient, a 49-year-old Qatari, first showed symptoms on September 3, was admitted to intensive care in Doha on September 7, and was flown by air ambulance to London last September 11.

What are coronaviruses?

They were first identified in the 1960s, and were named after the crown-like projections on the surface of the virus. Coronaviruses cause respiratory infections in both humans and animals.

What type is this, and what are the main symptoms?

The new strain has been confirmed so far in only two cases so there is very limited information on its impact, transmission and severity at this point in time. In the reported cases, patients had fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing.

What is the treatment?

The Health Protection Agency says experts do not have enough information on the virus to make specific recommendations for treatment. They can only provide acute respiratory support for those with severe symptoms, and advise for those in hospital.

How do you catch the infection?

Coronaviruses typically spread like other flu viruses. They are likely to be passed from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

How contagious is it?

Transmission appears to be “very limited,” the HPA says, if it were very contagious, there would have been more cases in other countries, and the people who have attended the patients would have been infected.

Reports said the incubation period of the Coronavirus is believed to be 7 days.

However, the HPA says it is best to be cautious. The patient who is now in London has been isolated and all staff wear the appropriate protective equipment.

Coronaviruses are fairly fragile and they survive outside their host’s body for only about 24 hours. They are easily destroyed by detergents and cleaning agents.

Where has this virus come from?

No one knows yet. They may have mutated from an existing virus. Some new infections may be caught from infectious agents, such as bacteria or viruses, circulating in the animal population, the agency said. Certain infections may cause only mild infection in an animal species but more serious infections in people (and vice versa).

Is there a vaccine?

No vaccine is available.

Is there a laboratory test?

Yes, but a complex one. The main test for Coronaviruses is known as PCR, followed by sequencing to confirm the strain of the virus.

If I visited the Middle East and have signs of a cold or fever, should I be worried?

If the symptoms are mild, you almost certainly have an infection caused by a common respiratory virus. However, if the symptoms worsen considerably and you become very breathless, contact your General Practitioner or NHS Direct and mention the countries in the Middle East you have travelled.

Is this similar to SARS?

SARS, which is a specific severe form of pneumonia, is also caused by a coronavirus, but the new strain can cause a range of symptoms, vaying from mild to serious. The two confirmed cases have experienced a serious respiratory illness, which in this regard is similar to SARS.

Reference: Health Protection Agency