A person in your workplace or a friend you had recently met tested positive of COVID-19. What should you do? Health authorities have reiterated that you should do a home quarantine to monitor symptoms and to avoid the spread of the virus. But what does this mean and how should you properly do it?
Here are answers to frequently asked questions, based on the Interim Guidelines for Home Quarantine issued by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
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What is quarantine?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines quarantine as the restriction of movement or separation of healthy individuals who may have been exposed to the virus, from the rest of the population, to monitor symptoms and detect positive cases early. Quarantine is different from isolation, which is the separation of ill or infected persons from others, so as to prevent the spread of infection or contamination.
Who should undergo a home quarantine?
According to the guidelines set by the Department of Health (DOH), any person who does not exhibit any sign nor symptom, has history of travel to China, and/or history of exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19, within the past 14 days, shall be required to undergo monitored home quarantine. This is regardless of nationality, race, and age
Likewise, any person, who exhibits fever or any symptom of lower respiratory illness, and has a history of travel to other countries with a confirmed case of COVID-19 but without any history of exposure, are also advised to undergo monitored home quarantine. This is also regardless of nationality, race and age.
Those undergoing home quarantine are prohibited to leave their rooms and homes where until they have been certified by the local health official to have finished the 14-day requirement. This should be coordinated with the DOH or the Epidemiologic Surveillance Unit in their locality.
How do we avoid the risk of getting infected while taking care of a PUM?
1. Provide a separate room for the Person under monitoring (PUM)
Assign a well-ventilated room for the PUM, preferably with toilet and bathroom. If this is not possible, maintain a distance of at least one meter from the PUM (e.g. sleep in a separate bed).
2. Observe minimal contact with the PUM
Assign one person who is in good health as caretaker of the PUM. Visitors, family members, and even caregivers are not allowed in the PUM’s room, if possible.
3. Confine activities to the PUM’s room
If this is not possible, ensure that shared spaces (e.g. kitchen, bathroom) are well ventilated (e.g. keep windows open).
4. Avoid direct contact with body secretions of the PUM
These include oral or respiratory secretions and feces. Use disposable gloves to provide oral or respiratory care and when handling feces, urine and waste. Wash hands before putting on and after removing gloves.
5. Avoid exposure to items used by the PUM
All types of possible exposure to the PUM or contaminated items in his or her immediate environment (e.g. sharing toothbrushes, cigarettes, towels, washcloths, bed linen) must be avoided.
6. Strictly observe proper hand hygiene
All PUMs and household members should practice proper hand hygiene following contact with the PUM or if in contact with their immediate environment. Perform hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water. If hands are not visibly soiled, 70 percent alcohol or any alcohol-based hand rub can be used. Hand hygiene should also be performed before and after preparing food, before eating, after using the toilet, and whenever hands look dirty. When using soap and water, disposable paper towels to dry hands is desirable. If not available, use dedicated cloth towels and replace them when they become wet.
7. PUMs should wear a mask when interacting with others
The PUM should wear a surgical mask fitted tightly to the nose, mouth, and chin when in the same room with another household member or when talking to other people. The use of masks is not required for those who are interacting with the PUM. If alone, the PUM is not required to wear a mask.
Take note: masks should not be touched or handled during use. If the mask gets wet or dirty with secretions, it must be changed immediately and disposed properly. Discard the used mask after a maximum use of eight (8) hours. Masks are NOT reusable and should not be washed. After removal of mask, wash hands using water and soap, or rub hands with 70 percent alcohol or any hand disinfectant.
8. Minimize interaction when serving meals to a PUM
The assigned caretaker of the PUM shall serve the plates or meal trays only up to the room door. After eating, these should be picked up at the room door by the caretaker using disposable gloves to avoid contamination. Perform hand hygiene afterward. Eating utensils and dishes should be cleaned with soap or detergent and water after use and maybe re-used instead of being discarded. Do not share eating utensils, dishes, and drinks with a PUM.
9. Gloves, tissues papers, and masks should be separated
Immediately discard materials used to cover the mouth or nose into the trash or clean reusable items appropriately after use (e.g. wash handkerchiefs using regular soap or detergent and water). Gloves, tissues, masks, and other waste generated by PUM should be placed in a container in the PUM’s room before disposal with other household waste.
10. PUMs should clean and disinfect their surroundings
PUMs are encouraged to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as bedside tables, doorknobs, bedframes, and other bedroom furniture daily with regular household disinfectant containing a diluted bleach solution (1-part bleach to 99 parts water). Clean and disinfect bathroom at least once daily with regular household disinfectant containing diluted bleach solution (1-part bleach to 99-parts water).
Clean clothes, bedclothes, bath, and hand towels, etc. of the PUM using regular laundry soap and water or machine wash at 60 to 90°C with common household detergent, and sun-dry. Place used linen into a laundry bag. Do not shake soiled laundry. Additional measures may be needed to prevent unhygienic reuse of gloves, masks, avoid direct contact of the skin and clothes with the contaminated materials.
Use disposable gloves and protective clothing (e.g. plastic aprons) when cleaning or handling surfaces, clothing or linen soiled with body fluids. Perform hand hygiene before and after removing gloves.
11. If the PUM develops COVID-19 symptoms, report immediately
It should be reported immediately to the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) or the Local Surveillance Officer for transport to nearest health facility. All household members of the PUM should be advised to seek immediate medical care when signs and symptoms develop.
For other COVID-19 related queries, you may contact the DOH COVID-19 emergency hotlines 02-894-COVID (02-894-26843) and 1555 in partnership with PLDT, Smart and the National Emergency Hotline of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.