Opinion

Good hygiene key to preventing spread of coronavirus

Good hygiene key to preventing spread of coronavirus

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Premier Li Keqiang of China, center, speaks to medical workers at Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan. (Reuters)

China has said the coronavirus outbreak is its worst health emergency and, with Italy and Iran’s latest news, plus the spread to other countries, the medical implications are being weighed up across the board.

Unsurprisingly, the transmission of unreliable information across social media is, at times, irresponsible. Medical professionals are most concerned by disinformation regarding the origins of COVID-19. The pathogen’s spread and its impact on global health and well-being are notable, but also important are concerns over mental health and stigma. 

Medical scientists who specialize in pandemics, public health professionals and medical professionals are pointing out that China, in particular, is working diligently and effectively to rapidly identify the pathogen behind this outbreak, put in place significant measures to reduce its impact, and share the results transparently with the global health community. This effort is ongoing and it should be noted that almost 2,000 Chinese medical workers have been infected by COVID-19, and some have died.

The rapid, open and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumors and misinformation surrounding its origins. Scientists are strongly condemning conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin. Scientists from multiple countries have published and analyzed genomes of the causative agent and concluded that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have many other emerging pathogens. It’s called nature.

Nature’s outbreak is raising questions among the medical community regarding best practices to control the spread, given there is no vaccine and the effectiveness of antiviral medicine is unproven. What needs to be done is better hygiene in terms of public health measures and etiquette, such as staying at home when taken ill and washing hands. To be sure, the outbreak confronts front-line clinicians and public health authorities and these groups must work together to educate the public by providing accurate and up-to-date information, and by taking care of patients with respiratory illness in a timely and effective manner. Meanwhile, the public is going to have to help with awareness through community outreach.

Medical professionals are asking if a respiratory virus that is both transmissible and severe can be contained. In preparation for an influenza pandemic, for example, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Pandemic Influenza Plan includes a combination of non-pharmaceutical (border and school closings, infection control measures) and pharmaceutical (antiviral prophylaxis and vaccines) interventions, which are meant to be used in combination to interrupt or slow transmission. Despite the implementation of some of these interventions, the 2009 swine flu H1N1 pandemic spread to 120 countries in three months.

The same medical professionals also ask: Is the world ready for a respiratory virus with high transmissibility and severity? After the 2013 avian flu H7N9 was identified in China, modeling articles described the effect of, and level of preparedness for, a severe, single-wave pandemic in the US. In scenarios that used clinical attack rates without a vaccine, school closures would be unlikely to affect what now includes asymptomatic transmission.

Doctors with experience in the emergence of Middle East respiratory syndrome are part of the effort to tackle COVID-19 as the disease spreads in parts of the Gulf. They bring knowledge of isolation techniques and medical treatment for those infected, as well as preparedness plans that include a surveillance plan, laboratory testing, and contact tracing guidance. Infection control guidance was developed for use in health care settings and traveler guidance. Remember, this disease is about the spread and radius of the infection. 

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is sending test kits so states can test samples from people who are suspected to be infected. For now, the CDC has opened a second lab and is working out further distribution. Stocking up on hospital worker protection equipment to keep people safe if they have to attend to patients infected with COVID-19 is ongoing because of the infection spread and rate. This cold spreads through droplets from coughing, sneezing or anything that aerosolizes the COVID-19. Doctors are also considering the so-called attrition rate among their own staff during the infection spread. Their conclusion is that there needs to be an adequate plan of rotation on this front.

Medical professionals are asking if a respiratory virus that is both transmissible and severe can be contained.

Dr. Theodore Karasik

As is typical, physician practices and hospitals are seeing an uptick in flu cases. To combat this, patients are told to follow time-tested preventive habits. The basics around prevention are always important, beginning with staying away from people who are sick and telling parents to keep sick children home from school. Furthermore, medical professionals say that wearing a mask will derive little benefit. The CDC does not recommend that people wear face masks to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.

Overall, medical professionals are on the front line on a number of different fronts fighting COVID-19, so that the treatment phase of the spread will be methodically thought out and that the campaign is sustained during the course of the illness spread, which may be up to a year, depending on the best practices.

  • Dr. Theodore Karasik is a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC. Twitter: @tkarasik
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Saudi Arabia offers guide to combat coronavirus

A doctor treating a patient infected by the COVID-19 coronavirus at a hospital in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. (AFP)
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Updated 27 February 2020

Saudi Arabia offers guide to combat coronavirus

  • The Kingdom has wide experience in fighting epidemics

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Health has provided neighboring Arab countries with a guide to controlling infectious diseases and dealing with health emergencies. 

Dr. Hani bin Abdul Aziz Jokhdar, deputy minister of public health, said that the guidelines were based on Saudi Arabia’s experience protecting pilgrims’ health and well-being during Hajj season. 

The deputy minister led the Kingdom’s delegation at a meeting of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Ministers for Health on Wednesday at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

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Arab countries’ preparations to combat the coronavirus epidemic were discussed at the meeting.

“The Kingdom has wide experience in fighting epidemics. The emergency plan presented to the Executive Office is part of the fight against infectious diseases and epidemics,” Jokhdar said.

“The Kingdom’s successful experience in the fight against infectious diseases, epidemics, disasters and others is widely praised at the Arab and the international levels,” he added.


Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia condemned

Updated 30 March 2020

Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia condemned

  • GCC Secretary-General Dr. Naif bin Falah Al-Hajraf says the ‘terrorist attack’ is not on Saudi Arabia alone, but also on Gulf security and stability
  • Attacks shows real threat posed by Houthis and Iranian regime supporting them: Coalition

RIYADH: The US on Sunday condemned the latest attempt by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen to target Saudi cities with ballistic missiles.

“As the world focuses on combating the COVID-19 pandemic and saving lives, the Houthis focused on doing the work of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force by attacking innocent civilians,” said John Abizaid, the US Ambassador to the Kingdom.

“We wish those injured in the attacks a speedy and full recovery.”

Two civilians suffered minor injuries from falling debris after Saudi air defenses intercepted and destroyed the Houthi missiles over Riyadh and the southern city of Jazan late on Saturday night.

Col. Turki Al-Malki, spokesman of the Saudi-led Arab coalition supporting Yemen's legitimate government, shows to the media on Sunday parts of the Houthi missile that was shot down over Riyadh the night before. (SPA)

The missile attacks at such a time showed the real threat posed by the Houthis and the Iranian regime supporting them, Saudi-led coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Malki said.

GCC Secretary-General Dr. Naif  bin Falah Al-Hajraf said the “terrorist attack” was not on Saudi Arabia alone, but also on Gulf security and stability.  The GCC supported all measures the Kingdom would take to defend its land and protect its citizens, Al-Hajraf said, and he called on the international community to shoulder its responsibility in countering such acts.

The UAE also condemned the attacks, and said it stood with the Kingdom against every threat to its security and stability. The attack threatened global unity against the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE said.

 

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