by OPI

MOVING to contain the growing restlessness on campus regarding the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), MSU-IIT puts together on February 6 a forum where an open discussion on the viral outbreak is held and questions of concerned Institute constituents answered.

The four-part forum entitled “Are You Scared?” and which is held at the Institute Mini-Theater is designed to prevent panic and to inform students and faculty and staff on what to do to protect themselves. 

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Leonell Albert L. Quitos of the city’s health office is brought in to talk about the nCoV and to answer the questions and concerns of Institute constituents who packed the venue. 

Dr. Quitos immediately works on making those in attendance understand that the “novel” in the Novel Coronavirus name meant “new”. 

He explains that there are a lot of Coronaviruses but that only six of these are known to affect humans. A couple of the famous strains of the Coronavirus, according to Dr. Quitos, are SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).  

“It [the nCoV] is called ‘novel’ because, really, nothing is known about it… it is new,” Dr. Quitos explains. 

He then clarifies that the potential human to human transmission of the virus is through contact with droplets containing it, and that the virus is not airborne.

“So, we have to differentiate the two: airborne, meaning the virus is floating in the air. But when we say droplet, it [the virus] stays in the droplet that came out of your respiratory tract… it does not suspend into the air,” Dr. Quitos says.

 “That is the reason why we don’t need the n95 mask… our surgical mask are already ok,” he adds.

Joining Dr. Quitos at the forum’s opening session at 9:00 in the morning are MSU-IIT officials Dr. Franco G. Teves, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Minnie B. Mamauag, the Dean of the College of Nursing. 

Another resource speaker, Dr. Muhammad M. Puting, Chief Administrative Officer of IIT’s Office of Medical and Dental Health Services, joins the group during the afternoon sessions.

Each of the forum’s four sessions lasts for one and a half hours.

Dr. Teves, who is also the Institutional Biosafety and Biorisk Officer, takes up biorisk management with the audience.

He presents them with simplified steps for risk assessment and risk management, “so that you will know if you are at risk or at what level of risk you are in, para hindi kayo mag-panic”. 

Dr. Teves also emphasizes “risk communication” or the need to have an official channel for communication “so that only the correct information can be disseminated to everyone.”

Dr. Mamauag for her part assures the students and Institute personnel at the forum that they are not going to fall victim to nCoV very soon.

“As long as you are healthy, you are maintaining proper hygiene, like washing your hands frequently with soap and water… take your vitamins, eat and sleep well, then you’re ok!” she tells them.

Dr. Puting shares what to do to avoid contracting the disease. The Institute’s chief medical officer says one way is to avoid crowds and maintain social distancing between oneself and other people, particularly those who are coughing or sneezing.

“You should be about six feet from the one who has this cough or runny nose,” Dr. Puting adds.

The forum is organized by MSU-IIT’s Mindanao Center for Resiliency (MCR).