Stay at home or consult a doctor? Here’s when you should get tested for coronavirus

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 10)— Coronavirus cases continue to spike globally—and the Philippines is not exempt from the mysterious disease’s scare.

Health authorities on Monday reported 14 more cases of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 24.

The development raised alarm among citizens—particularly residents of Metro Manila, where majority of the new cases were recorded and admitted. Some have been extra cautious with their personal hygiene, while others pondered on immediate visits to their doctors once flu-like symptoms kick in.

But with a limited stock of testing kits, the Health Department encouraged Filipinos to carefully consider if they should indeed get tested for coronavirus.

Should you settle for a home remedy or head to a testing center? Here are some local health experts’ guidelines:

You should get tested if….

-You exhibit COVID symptoms, and have travel history to areas with local cases of transmission

-You exhibit COVID symptoms, and have been exposed to a person who tested positive for coronavirus

Who exactly are contacts?

Many people worry they are contacts of a person who was confirmed to have the coronavirus disease. But are they?

According to a World Health Organization official, they are family members, classmates and workmates who have spent time in close proximity with confirmed cases.

“We are talking of a distance of one meter or so,” the WHO representative told CNN Philippines.

He then stressed the importance of identifying, and when necessary, testing the close contacts to prevent the further of spread of the virus.

What if I’m symptomatic, but with no history of travel and exposure?

DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said not all individuals who exhibit flu-like symptoms should run to hospitals for testing, as they are considered to be at “low risk” for infection.

However, she said those who experience signs should consistently monitor themselves.

“For those people who exhibit signs and symptoms like fever, sore throat, cough and colds without any history at all of travel to those affected areas or without history of known exposure to these positive cases, they don't need to worry,” Vergeire told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Monday.

“They just monitor themselves, and if symptoms progress, they can consult their doctor. But they are the ones who are at very low risk of contracting this disease.”

The health official said patients can head to level 2 or 3 hospitals, as only “severe” cases will be admitted to referral hospitals such as the San Lazaro hospital and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa.

Public health expert Dr. Susan Mercado added Filipinos can also call and consult DOH beforehand to avoid wasting a trip to the center.

“Before you go to the hospital, call,” Mercado told CNN Philippines. “There's a DOH hotline, the Red Cross has a hotline. Get some advice.

At present, the government’s testing capacity is at 4,500 individual tests, with 2,000 more extraction kits expected to arrive on Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said. The University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health has also developed test kits for the coronavirus, but they have yet to be rolled out in local hospitals pending clearance and approval from the World Health Organization.

President Rodrigo Duterte has also declared a state of public emergency in the country, upon health officials' recommendations. The move will give easier access to financial resources to control the spread of the disease in the country, and allow authorities to enforce mandatory quarantine for travelers.

More than 4,000 people have been killed by the coronavirus disease as of Tuesday, data from Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering show. The disease has since spread to 112 countries and territories outside of China, the epicenter of the virus’ outbreak, with over 110,000 cases listed worldwide.