Dr. Edgar M. Panga
HEALTH DESK | A COUNTERFORCE TO COVID
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
by Doc Ed P.
Shortly after the earlier onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic in our country, mixed feelings naturally arose. We were anxious due to the confusing, likely discouraging response from authorities on how the surging cases will be controlled and handled. We were fearful from being unknowledgeable; both patient and health worker left to deal with the physical, emotional and psychological effects of a novel and unfamiliar ailment. Anger added to the mix as news of alleged lawless acts and corruption surface while people adjust to adopt rigorous laws and restrictions.
At some point, we were also frustrated by the quick turnaround in authoritative theories and opinions on how to curb the spread of the virus. The latest of which is simply through quick identification of cases, immediate isolation and containment, and intelligent tracing of contacts or those infected and potentially spreading the virus. Respectively, this means having the capability of screening and mass testing, establishing hospital network and quarantine facilities, lockdown of all means of entry points of the source and designating a quick response team and dedicated contact tracers in all units. This has been figured out way after cases have already rocketed to unprecedented level.
Amid the pandemic fatigue, we had to condition ourselves to live the ‘new normal’ reality; there is the need to transition to a new culture and vocabulary, as we learn to”social distance” and minimize physical touch. We became overly conscious of coughing in light of a stigma, and there is also a downcast feeling in concealing, with masks and shields, our faces and hence, our emotions too. Well, at least we finally take pride in washing our hands.
Something can be done. In the individual level, aside from the twin power of a regularly healthy diet and exercise to up the immunity, a relevant strategy to counter Covid is to be well-informed and diligently apply practical steps against the spread of the virus—steps oftentimes neglected.
In line with this, we should familiarize ourselves with these important and basic terms we’ll encounter along the way:
A suspected case is anyone with or without exposure to a probable or confirmed Covid case and/or coming from a covid-19 endemic areas and developed three or more signs and symptoms as follows: fever, general weakness/muscle pain/fatigue, colds (coryza), Cough, Sore throat, difficulty in breathing, loss of smell (anosmia), loss of taste/appetite (ageusia), nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, headache, altered mental status.
A probable case is a suspected case, a person particularly with recent onset of loss of smell or taste in the absence of other symptoms, or an asymptomatic person exposed to another probable or confirmed case that underwent RT-PCR test (swab test) with the result still pending.
A confirmed case is a patient with or without symptoms but with positive RT PCR test result.
A close contact (exposure) to a probable or confirmed case of Covid-19 is particularly defined to consider the following;
a. Face to face contact (with or without face mask and shield) within 1 meter lasting for at least 15 minutes.
b. Direct physical contact as to relatives, spouse, siblings, close relationship
c. Direct care of a covid 19 patient without appropriate or recommended PPE OR;
d. Other situations as indicated by local risk assessments.
With that, the following is a gist of protocols we try to strictly abide by, lest we compromise everyone’s safety.
Immediate tracing of close contacts should be initiated immediately including people exposed from probable and confirmed case 2 days before the patient becomes symptomatic and 14 days onward if the affected is still not quarantined or isolated.
Close contact of a suspected case that does not have exposure to confirmed case need to self monitor. Once symptomatic or the suspected case becomes a probable or a confirmed case, close contact needs to quarantine or isolate at once.
Immediate quarantine for 14 days is required for close contact of probable and confirmed cases. Medical Consultation is necessary if close contact becomes symptomatic
A close contact that becomes symptomatic is required to have a swab test for active contact tracing. Asymptomatic close contact may undergo swab test as requested by a physician otherwise would only need to complete a 14-days quarantine.
A close contact that becomes mildly symptomatic and opted not to have a swab test needs to have 3 days of recovered symptoms then 10 days symptom-free isolation and be cleared by the physician for reintegration or returning to work.
Notably, repeat swab test is no longer recommended by DOH of a confirmed case after completion of the required quarantine days.
The entire workforce is mandated to adhere to the HR Department memo regarding proper coordination of suspected cases with tele-consultation for proper management directives and administrative planning. Health Declaration checklist should be done daily and temperature scanning should be observed. Any positive response and temperature 37.5 C and above may warrant no entry to office unless cleared by proper authorities.
Finally, in the collective level; an unfailing strategy for a team to counter Covid is simply for everyone to do their individual parts. With hopes of beating this unwelcome force, may we be compassionate and unselfish; equating respect to life with following simple, straightforward rules and reminding each other to do so. In a pandemic such as this, the discipline of each person carries the hope of the whole community. There is no better counterforce to Covid than our concerted efforts.
Masayang Pasku ampong Masaganang Bayung Banwa kekatamungan pa murin!!!
(Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to us all, nevertheless!!!)
Note: Simplified guidelines mentioned are paraphrased for easy understanding. A detailed, comprehensive reference to this is the DOH Office of the Secretary Memo dated Oct 06, 2020; Omnibus, Interim Guidelines on Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment, and Reintegration Strategies for COVID-19.
About the Author
Dr. Edgar M. Panga has been the company physician of Balibago Waterworks since 2015. He is an alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas and underwent further training in Basic Occupational Health and Safety at the University of the Philippines, Manila and Specialty Training in General Surgery in BGHMC Baguio City. He has 20 years of local and overseas experience as a General Surgeon. He is also currently affiliated with Angeles City Medical Society, Fellow of ICS Philippine chapter. A most treasured feat in his career is to have been part of the pilot team for the "Doctors to the Barrios" initiative by then Secretary of Health Sen. Juan Flavier from 1994 to 1996.