As the Wuhan pneumonia virus continues to spread across China and partially engulfing other countries because 1.4 billion Chinese potentially infected in an interconnected world is the recipe for a pandemic, Singaporeans quietly panicking on the inside can lean on some basic facts.
Use surgical masks
Surgical masks help block large-particle droplets and splatter from reaching the wearer's mouth and nose.
They also reduce exposure of the wearer's saliva and respiratory secretions to others.
Surgical masks, therefore, help keep your ailment to yourself.
Social responsibility, everyone.
Do not use N95 masks
N95 masks are meant for events such as haze, as they keep particles out of your system, and are usually worn by health care professionals on a day-to-day basis.
N95 masks are uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time as they get very warm around the face.
They are made in such a way as to make it difficult to breathe in.
If you are using N95 masks as a regular person and do not feel they are uncomfortable to wear, you are definitely doing it wrong.
If the N95 masks still feel breathable, they are letting in air around the sides, which defeats the purpose.
No shortage of masks
There is no need to worry about a potential shortage of face masks.
The Singapore government has a stockpile of such items that can last for more than six months.
This is on top of efforts by major retailers that are working to procure more masks now.
The government will step in to help in the event of shortages.
During the last haze episode in September 2019, Singapore had a stockpile of 16 million N95 masks.
Virus suspected to be spreading from bats to snakes to humans
The Wuhan virus, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has named the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV, has crossed some boundaries.
The latest word is that it has gone from bats to snakes to humans, and is now being spread via human-to-human transmission.
Crossing the animal-human threshold, as well as the cold-blooded-warm-blooded threshold is disconcerting.
The reason pandemics happen is because infections happen easily, but the virus does not kill its hosts too quickly.
This gives time for the virus to be passed on to the next host instead of resulting in its own destruction if its host dies too quickly.
As long as the virus infects the hosts and gives them some time to live, it will increase the virus' exposure to other hosts.
Test of China's system of accurate reporting
Currently, China is being praised for its up-to-date reporting of the number of infections and deaths.
This is a step up from the 2003 SARS epidemic.
While the Chinese government continues to control the message and maintain social order, it has been reported that the authorities are also actively scrubbing comments on the Chinese intranet.
Messages that do not appear to cohere to the official narrative will be removed.
This censorious tendency can lead to suspicion that there might be more than meets the eye in China.
I've been spending the whole day talking to sources in #Wuhan and the more I learned about how the #CCP has been handling the public health crisis, the angrier and irritated I get. Instead of addressing the emerging cases right away, they repeatedly downplayed the ...— William Yang (@WilliamYang120) January 23, 2020
The true extent of the spread of the virus will only be known when the government releases the data, which includes both deaths and infections.
But what the public could be missing out on is the immediacy of on-the-ground perspectives of people who can provide unvarnished feedback about the situation as it unfolds.
However, do also note that just as quickly the virus has spread, it could also disappear overnight.
This is due to the nature of how viruses spread among hosts.
And if it does go away, it could end up hibernating as it lies dormant in wait till the next suitable moment when all the human and environmental factors are aligned again.
Regardless, Singaporeans are urged to monitor their health and practise good personal hygiene.
- washing their hands frequently with soap;
- if sick, see a doctor, then stay at home and return to school only when fully recovered;
- wearing a surgical mask if they have a cough or runny nose to prevent infecting others.
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