The "novel" coronavirus, which originated from Wuhan, China, has spread throughout 16 other countries, with confirmed cases in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and more. DOH also just confirmed the Philippines' first case, a Chinese national who "sought consult and was admitted in one of the country’s government hospitals last January 25 after experiencing mild cough." (via GMA)

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As of writing, the outbreak has claimed the lives of 132 people in China.

What is the coronavirus? 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the "coronavirus, [otherwise known as "2019-nCoV"], are a large family of respiratory viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)." 

Coronaviruses are passed from animals to humans. The 2019-nCoV reportedly originated from a seafood market in Wuhan, where wild animals like bats and snakes are being sold. Now, the virus is spreading from humans to humans. 

What are the symptoms of coronavirus? 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the most common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. "[The] symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 after exposure," notes CDC. 

Is there a vaccine? 

There is currently no vaccine yet for the 2019-nCoV. Experts say that a vaccine for the new coronavirus could be years in the making, which is why taking extra precautions is a must, especially if you're traveling. Here a few ways you can protect yourself from the coronavirus outbreak:

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1. Stash a bottle of alcohol and wet wipes in your tote—and use them often! 

Keep your hands clean. As WebMD notes, coronavirus is spread "through infected people coughing and sneezing, by touching an infected person's hands or face, or by touching things such as doorknobs that infected people have touched."

WHO advises the public to clean their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. If you are willing to go the extra mile, use a wet wipe to disinfect the airline gate bench armrests (this is reportedly the second dirtiest place in the airport!) or airport luggage carts. 

2. Load up on vitamin C to boost your immune system. 

3. Drink fluids. 

This can help keep the virus from entering your system, because "a dry throat makes it easier for virus to enter one’s system," according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a report by CNN Philippines.

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4. If you've got a cough or flu, be socially responsible and put on a mask to avoid infecting others. 

Experts say that surgical masks are more effective in preventing the spread of the Wuhan virus compared to the N95. As Business Insider reports, "N95 respirators filter out most airborne particles from the surrounding air... These types of masks are often used when air quality is poor due to wildfire smoke or pollution, and they're designed to fit tightly against one's face. However, the coronavirus measures 0.12 microns in diameter. 

"Surgical masks, meanwhile, are designed to keep large particle droplets and splatter from passing from a person's mouth to nearby surfaces or people." 

For those who aren't sick, wearing a mask won't fully protect you from catching the virus, but it can help lower the risk of getting infected through "'the splash' from a sneeze or a cough and offer some protection against hand-to-mouth transmissions," explains The Guardian

Take note, though: A mask is only effective if properly used. Here's a quick refresher on how to wear and remove a mask, as demonstrated by Seto Wing Hong of WHO: 

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5. Keep a distance from anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Wear your mask when in crowded streets and markets, as well as when riding the train. 

6. Cough and sneeze in your inner elbow. 

This will keep your hands germ-free! 

7. When shopping in wet markets in China and Southeast Asia, wash your hands with soap and water after touching animal products. 

8. Avoid eating raw meat. 

As reported by Smart Parenting, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has advised the public to eat well-cooked food amid the coronavirus threat. He said: “Rule number one: Never eat raw meat,” he shares. “Maraming puwedeng sakit [na puwedeng] ibigay ‘yan sa atin... Make sure that the preparation is adequate. It should not be half-cooked or have meat that is pinkish."

9. Last but not the least, cancel or rebook your flight if you're unwell. 

Prioritize your health. Fortunately, local airlines like Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have announced that travelers with flights between the Philippines and China from January 24 to February 29 can choose to cancel or postpone their travel. Learn more about how you can refund your flight ticket here

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