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Infectious diseases physician, Dr Leong Hoe Nam, on what we need to know about 2019-Coronavirus

By February 11, 2020Current

TL;DR – Yes, you can still eat out and support your favourite hawker.

Yes, I know, it has been information and videos overload since the 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak.

So much to read and watch, and so little time. But times like this, it is even more important to be discerning about the media we consume. There are so many rumours, unverified information and even fake news flying around.

Especially on Whatsapp chats and Telegram.

Have you heard the one about placing an onion in every room in your house to ward off the virus? One friend just told me this morning his mother suggested garlic too.

Coronavirus expert says correct comparison of Wuhan virus is not SARS or MERS but a bad cold

Anyway, there are three more videos circulating online today. Three videos that we should all watch.

I have included the transcript too, in case any one of you prefers reading instead of watching the videos.

These three videos are produced by Gov.sg where they got Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an expert and practising physician in Infectious Diseases, to share:

  1. What we need to know about 2019-nCoV
  2. Tips on protecting ourselves.
  3. How it affects our daily routine

Pass this on to your family and friends!

2019-Novel Coronavirus | What do you need to know

How does 2019-nCoV spread?

2019-Coronavirus is like any other cold virus or influenza which we are familiar with. So it spreads primarily by respiratory droplets. This means it flies out with our spittle when we talk exuberantly, it comes out with a sneeze, but it’s certainly not in the air.

How can we distinguish between 2019-nCoV symptoms and regular flu?

You cannot. I think it is very difficult. You have the usual symptoms of fever, headache, muscle aches, you have your cough or sore throat, very similar between the common cold, influenza or the 2019-Novel Coronavirus.

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Is it possible to contract 2019-nCoV from someone who is not showing symptoms?

Asymptomatic, they have no symptoms, they’re less likely to have nasal discharge, less likely to have cough, and hence less likely to transmit. And conventional wisdom will be that the amount of virus there is will be very, very little. So in truth, we suspect the actual risk to be very, very low.

How deadly is the disease caused by 2019-nCoV?

Overall the mortality stands at 2%, but I think this is an artificially inflated number because we do not have the full denominator, the number of people who are sick. If we include the mild cases, I think the figures will be much lower, much closer to the influenza which you and I are familiar with.

What treatments exist to help 2019-nCoV patients?

Most of the time, it is still best supportive care. Best supportive care means providing adequate hydration, adequate food, oxygen when needed, making the patient feel comfortable. And that will work for more than 90% of the patients.

2019-Novel Coronavirus | Daily Life: As per normal?

Should I avoid public places, e.g. hawker centres?

When communal spread starts, I will still support my favourite hawker, but I will not loiter. I will do what I need to do, get in, get out, back to my home and all will be OK.

Can I get 2019-nCoV from handling money and other communal objects?

Should I handle money? I will keep the money, but I will make sure I wash my hands, be it with alcohol, be it with soap and water, before I touch my face.

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Should I avoid places where there have been suspected or confirmed 2019-nCoV cases?

Ironically, those places would have been cleaned thoroughly, and will be one of the cleanest spots in SIngapore. I would trust the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) as well as the National Environment Agency (NEA) to make a thorough clean of the area.

Can I catch the virus from my online shopping packages?

When the packages go through transport even from China, or from Wuhan itself, through to Singapore, the transportation, the long process, and the exposure to the good old sun, would have decimated the virus.

Should I be worried if I live close to a quarantine site?

No, I would not be particularly worried. Remember, the virus can only spread by droplets. Even if I am living next to a quarantine area, the virus does not go into the air, you cannot breathe it in.

Should I avoid private hire vehicles and taxis?

As I enter into the vehicle, I will request that the windows be wound down. This way, it allows air to move in and out of the vehicle, and this will quickly dilute the virus and make it negligible.

2019-Novel Coronavirus | Protecting Yourself: What you need to know

How can I protect myself from the 2019-nCoV?

Clean hand hygiene is very important. Remember, wash your hands with soap and water, or use alcohol, before you touch your face. Your face is sacred.

Now if I am sick and not feeling well, in addition to washing hands and keeping hands clean, I would put on a surgical mask. That is out of respect to my fellow Singaporeans – I do not want to transmit the virus to anybody.

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How does washing hands help?

We may inadvertently touch our eyes, touch our nose or mouth, even though we are wearing our masks. So keeping our hands clean will protect our face from getting infected with the organism.

Are hand sanitisers useful if I can’t immediately wash my hands?

Hand sanitisers work very, very well. Squirting a lot of alcohol, you can get them into the crevices, you dry your hands and the virus dies. The virus dies very well with drying.

However I have a caution with wipes. Wipes is like you are spreading things over – like butter on toast. But this time round, you are spreading the virus all over, and any germs. So I would refrain from using wipes.

What precautions can businesses take?

Number one, can I actually split the staff into two different groups, such that they do not come and meet at the same time. So in the inadvertent risk that one group is affected by the disease, the other group is able to maintain and keep the business going.

Number two, think about letting your staff work remotely without having to come in. See whether you can do things with minimal contact between your clients and yourself.

Now, pass this along!

 

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Maggie O

Author Maggie O

Digital extrovert. Social introvert (warning: 93% introverted!) In the day, I work to put cai-png on the table and ice-cream in the fridge. In the night, I read a lot and write a little. Also, all views expressed in my contribution pieces here are based on my personal opinions, and they do not reflect the ideas, ideologies, or points of view of my employer (past, current and future).

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