On Thursday, Jan 30, the Philippines confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV from a 38-year-old woman who had traveled to Wuhan, China. 

The Department of Health (DOH) made the announcement with an assurance that our hospitals were ready to respond to the disease and general advice on what we can do to protect ourselves from the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) took to Twitter to disseminate information on proper hygiene practice to guard against the virus:

One particular advice isn’t heard of often but turns out to be practical: Cough or sneeze in your flexed elbow, not in your hands. 

We asked AO’s resident medical expert, Dr. Domicias Albacite of The Medical City Clark, why this is so. 

“It is a pushed-to-the-wall kind of advice. If you don’t have any tissue or hanky then do that.” The reason is that coughing in your hands means there are more chances of you transmitting the virus—because our hands are our utility and social tools—to another person. And it turns out that washing your hands is the most important thing we can do to stop the spread of the virus.

“If we rank all these advice [by the WHO], washing hands is most important. Kaya magdala kayo ng pocket-sized 70% alcohol. Wag alcogel, mahina yon,” Dr. Albacite says. 

Regarding face masks, the WHO’s general advice is this: 

Let’s repeat that: “the use of a mask alone is insufficient to provide the adequate level of protection and other equally relevant measures should be adopted.” 

Ingat tayo lahat, but let us also guard against panic and false information. Let’s see ourselves through this.