By Hannah T. Mallorca
Features Writer, The Philippine STAR

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has so far infected more than 900,000 patients globally and various measures have been implemented to contain its spread. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo R. Duterte has placed Luzon under Enhanced Community Quarantine until April 12.

On March 16, the Department of Health (DoH) released guidelines to determine if a suspected patient needs to get tested for COVID-19, classifying possibly infected individuals into Person under Monitoring (PUM) or Person under Investigation (PUI).

An individual is considered a PUM if he or she is asymptomatic but has travel history to areas with local transmission of coronavirus in the past 14 days or a history of exposure to a COVID-19 patient. Online health resource Patient UK noted that loss of smell can also be considered as an indication that someone is a PUM.

On the other hand, one is considered a PUI if he or she presents symptoms of respiratory illnesses such as cough, colds, fever above 37.5 degrees Celsius, shortness of breath or fatigue; and either has travel history to countries with local transmission of the virus in the past 14 days or history of exposure to a COVID-19 patient.

If your loved one is a PUI, immediately contact the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) or the local surveillance officer to transport the patient to the nearest health facility. Hospitals should admit the patient in an isolation room while waiting for their test results. Elderly patients with mild symptoms and ongoing medical conditions can also be admitted for testing.

For PUM individuals and caregivers, here are the steps to help contain the virus:

– PUMs should be isolated in a well-ventilated room, preferably with a bathroom. If not possible, they should maintain a distance of at least one meter.

– Assign someone as the caretaker; he or she must be in good health condition.

– As much as possible, don’t allow family members and visitors inside the PUM’s room.

– PUMs should wear a face mask fitted tightly on the nose, mouth and chin.

Meanwhile, here are some guidelines if you are taking care of a PUM:

– Always wash your hands for 20 seconds using soap and water.

– If you don’t have soap, sanitize your hands using alcohol-based sanitizer or 70-percent isopropyl alcohol.

– Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth especially if you haven’t sanitized your hands.

– If possible, use a disposable face mask when taking care of the patient. Observe proper disposal techniques.

– Avoid direct contact with oral and respiratory secretions as much as possible.

– If you need to handle secretions, use disposable gloves. Wash hands before and after.

– Serve meals only up to the room door. Do not share utensils and drinks with the individual.

– Clean counters, table surfaces, doorknobs, telephones, and other bedroom furniture with household disinfectants daily.

– Clean clothes, bedsheets, towels and reusable items through handwashing or machine washing, then sun-dry.

– Dispose materials used to cover the PUM’s nose or mouth.

If the PUM develops two or more symptoms, contact RESU or the local surveillance officer to transport the patient to the nearest health facility. Family members should seek medical care if they develop symptoms as well.

As of April 2, the DoH has reported 2,633 confirmed cases in the Philippines. The total of recovered patients is at 51, while number of deaths has risen to 107.

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