Friday, April 25, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

Global Alert and Response (GAR)

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness in humans and animals. In people, coronaviruses can cause illnesses ranging in severity from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The novel coronavirus, first detected in April 2012, is a new virus that has not been seen in humans before. In most cases, it has caused severe disease. Death has occurred in about half of cases.
This new coronavirus is now known as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). It was named by the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses in May 2013.

Where are MERS-CoV infections occurring?

Nine countries have now reported cases of human infection with MERS-CoV. Cases have been reported in France, Germany, Italy Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. All cases have had some connection (whether direct or indirect) with the Middle East. In France, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom, limited local transmission has occurred in people who had not been to the Middle East but who had been in close contact with laboratory-confirmed or probable cases.

How widespread is MERS-CoV?

How widespread this virus may be is still unknown. WHO encourages Member States to continue to closely monitor for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns of SARI or pneumonia. WHO will continue to share information as it becomes available.

What are the symptoms of MERS-CoV?

Common symptoms are acute, serious respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Most patients have had pneumonia. Many have also had gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea. Some patients have had kidney failure. About half of people infected with MERS-CoV have died. In people with immune deficiencies, the disease may have an atypical presentation. It is important to note that the current understanding of illness caused by this infection is based on a limited number of cases and may change as we learn more about the virus.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that includes viruses that may cause a range of illnesses in humans, from the common cold to SARS. Viruses of this family also cause a number of animal diseases. 

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
This particular strain of coronavirus has not been previously identified in humans. There is very limited information on transmission, severity and clinical impact with only a small number of cases reported thus far.

What is the significance of the recent finding of MERS-CoV in a camel?

On 11 November, the Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia announced that MERS-CoV had been detected in a camel linked to a human case in Saudi Arabia. This finding is consistent with previously published reports of MERS-CoV reactive antibodies in camels, and adds another important piece of information to our understanding of MERS-CoV ecology. However, this finding does not necessarily implicate camels directly in the chain of transmission to humans. The critical question that remains about this virus is the route by which humans are infected, and the way in which they are exposed. Most patients who have tested positive for MERS-CoV had neither a human source of infection nor direct exposure to animals, including camels. It is still unclear whether camels, even if infected with MERS-CoV, play a role in transmission to humans. Further genetic sequencing and epidemiologic data are needed to understand the role, if any, of camels in the transmission of MERS CoV to humans.

How do people become infected with this virus?

We do not yet know how people become infected with this virus. Investigations are underway to determine the source of the virus, the types of exposure that lead to infection, the mode of transmission, and the clinical pattern and course of disease.

How is the virus being transmitted to humans?

We still do not know the answer to this question. It is unlikely that transmission of the MERs-CoV to people occurs through direct exposure to an infected camel, as very few of the cases have reported a camel exposure. More investigations are needed to look at the recent exposures and activities of infected humans. WHO is working with partner agencies with expertise in animal health and food safety, including FAO, OIE and national authorities, to facilitate these investigations. Many technical organizations are offering their expertise to assist ministries responsible for human health, animal health, food, and agriculture. Investigation protocols and guidelines for dealing with new cases are available on the WHO website.
  • Latest information on MERS-CoV infections

Should people avoid contact with animals or animal products?

Because neither the source of the virus nor the mode of transmission is known, it is not possible to give specific advice on prevention of infection. Contact with any obviously sick animals (including birds) should be avoided, and basic hygiene measures taken, especially frequent hand washing and changing of clothes and shoes or boots, after handling animals or animal products. Sick animals should never be slaughtered for consumption. The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products, including milk and meat, carries a high risk of infection from a variety of organisms that might cause disease in humans. Animal products processed appropriately through cooking or pasteurization are safe for consumption but should also be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods. Other hygiene measures include avoiding unwashed fruits or vegetables, and drinks made without safe water.

Are bats the source of the virus?

MERS-CoV has recently been found to be genetically related to a virus identified in bats from Southern Africa. But there is no definitive evidence that MERS-CoV originates in bats.

Can the MERS-CoV persist in the environment?

We do not yet know the answer to this question. Some types of environment are better suited for persistence of certain viruses but we still do not know exactly how well and under what conditions MERS-CoV may persist in the environment.

Can the virus be transmitted from person to person?

Yes. We have now seen multiple clusters of cases in which human-to-human transmission has occurred. These clusters have been observed in health-care facilities, among family members and between co-workers. However, the mechanism by which transmission occurred in all of these cases, whether respiratory (e.g. coughing, sneezing) or direct physical contact with the patient or contamination of the environment by the patient, is unknown. Thus far, no sustained community transmission has been observed.

Is there a vaccine or treatment for MERS-CoV?

No. No vaccine is currently available. Treatment is largely supportive and should be based on the patient’s clinical condition.

How many people have been infected by MERS-CoV?

Are health workers at risk from MERS-CoV?

Yes. Transmission has occurred in health-care facilities, including spread from patients to health-care providers. WHO recommends that health-care workers consistently apply appropriate infection prevention and control measures.

How is WHO responding to the emergence of MERS-CoV?

Since the emergence of this virus, WHO has been working under the International Health Regulations to gather scientific evidence to better understand this virus and provide information to Member States. For this purpose, WHO convened the first international meeting on MERS-CoV in Cairo in January 2013.
On 19-22 June, WHO convened a second meeting in Cairo to discuss advances in scientific research and the international response to MERS-CoV. On 5 July, WHO announced it would convene an Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (2005). This Committee will advise the Director-General as to whether this event constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The Committee may also offer advice to the Director-General on public health measures that should be taken.
WHO is also working with affected countries and international partners to coordinate the global health response, including the provision of updated information on the situation, guidance to health authorities and technical health agencies on interim surveillance recommendations, laboratory testing of cases, infection control, and clinical management.

What is WHO recommending that countries do?

WHO encourages all Member States to enhance their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns of SARI or pneumonia cases. WHO urges Member States to notify or verify to WHO any probable or confirmed case of infection with MERS-CoV.

Has WHO recommended any travel or trade restrictions related to this new virus?

No. WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions with respect to MERS-CoV. WHO will continue to review all recommendations as more information becomes available.
Check/click on my first article about MERS CoV  on June 6, 2013

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The best way to use a lithium-ion battery, redux


by/credit to: by  -
A little over three years ago, you, the readers, asked us, the Ars staff, about the best way to prolong the life of a lithium-ion battery. Now that time has passed, the gadget landscape has changed, and it's time for an update. There are a few new things to look out for, but mostly the principles we stated then, stand today: "Use your battery. Not too much. Mostly for small apps."
One of the worst things you can do to a Li-ion battery is to run it out completely all the time. Full discharges put a lot of strain on the battery, and it's much better practice to do shallow discharges to no lower than 20 percent. In a way, this is like people running for exercise—running a few miles a day is fine, but running a marathon every day is generally not sustainable. If your Li-ion-powered device is running out of juice on a daily basis, you're decreasing its overall useful lifespan, and should probably work some charging stations into your day or change your devices' settings so that it's not churning through its battery so quickly.
There used to be certain types of batteries whose "memory" of their total charge capacity seemed to get confused by shallow discharges. This is not, and never was, the case with Li-ion batteries. However, if you are using something like a notebook computer that gives you time estimates of how much longer the battery will last, this clock can be confused by shallow charging intervals. Most manufacturers recommend that you do a full discharge of the battery about once a month to help your device calibrate the time gauge.
…On the other end of the spectrum, keeping a Li-ion battery fully charged is not good for it either. This isn't because Li-ion batteries can get "overcharged" (something that people used to worry about in The Olden Days of portable computers), but a Li-ion battery that doesn't get used will suffer from capacity loss, meaning that it won't be able to hold as much charge and power your gadgets for as long. Extremely shallow discharges of only a couple percent are also not enough to keep a Li-ion battery in practice, so if you're going to pull the plug, let the battery run down for a little bit.
The other tip that remains true is that you should keep Li-ion batteries in fair weather. They don't like extreme cold or heat, especially heat caused by running Crysis 2 clock-speed drag races or whatever the kids are up to these days.
Another thing that Li-ion batteries hate is heat. This somewhat less of a problem for cell phones, but a big problem for notebooks. Even using a battery at room temperature for a year can bring its capacity down by as much as 20 percent, and the interior of most computers is a mite cozier than than that. So in a unfortunate twist of fate, laptop batteries usually spend the most time in the worst possible state: plugged in at 100 percent charge, running at an elevated temperature.
An interesting development since we wrote the first edition of this article is that Li-ion batteries are less likely to find themselves in very hot environments as a result of the device they're powering. Devices are better at heat regulation today and, thanks to flash storage, tend to have fewer moving parts. We should now have an easier time getting long lives out of Li-ion batteries without having to change our behavior much.
These days, temperatures can be slightly more of a problem for smartphones, where hardware still has to operate in very tight quarters. For this reason, it's best to keep them out of situations that are already hot (sunlight, pockets, under pillows).
But it's also helpful to try and keep tabs on whether your phone is needlessly spinning its processing wheels, which is harder with some platforms than others. With Android, this is a little easier to suss out using the usage stats and process-manager interfaces. If something is idling and cranking up the temperature on your phone, kill it.
iOS devices are a little harder to manage in this respect, but recently ran a great guide to troubleshooting a wayward device or apps that are draining the battery needlessly.
As we noted in the first edition of this guide, another of the Li-ion battery draining sins are fast, intensive drains:
Running the battery out very quickly by drawing a lot of power at once is another way to cause it a lot of strain. For example, running a graphics-intensive game on a smartphone or a notebook for a couple of hours while unplugged is worse for the battery than depleting it over several hours while e-mailing or Internet-browsing (heat is a factor here, too). Again with the running analogy: it's probably harder on you to sprint a mile than to jog it.
Another piece of advice in the new age: as Gizmodo notes, while wireless charging is fun, using it may come at a cost to your device's battery longevity because it can produce excess heat, more so than a simple plug might. Given how much wireless charging solutions cost, I suspect if you're using one, you treat gadgets more like candy than children, so this may not be much of a concern.
Otherwise, the principle I first wrote stands: use your battery. Not too much. Mostly for small apps. Go forth and discharge. But gently. Ever so gently.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Visa Exempt Countries for Filipinos bearing Philippine Passports:

Visa Exempt Countries for Filipinos bearing Philippine Passports:

Below is a list of countries where Filipino nationals or Pinoys with Philippine passports are not 
required to secure a visa. Some countries may not require a visa prior to departure but will require 
one upon arrival at their immigration border. Extensions of stay are usually granted upon payment 
of visa extension fee. Countries however may change their visa policy without notice. Please check with
 their respective embassies prior to travel.
Philippine Electronic Passport
photo credit:

Asian Countries, member of ASEAN
(Association of Southeast Asian Nations)

In a reciprocity visa free agreement among member nations within the ASEAN:

 Brunei Darussalam - 14 days
 Cambodia - 21 days
 Indonesia - 30 days
 Laos - 30 days
 Malaysia - 30 days
 Singapore - 30 days
 Thailand - 30 days
 Vietnam - 21 days
Asian Countries, Non-ASEAN member
 Azerbaijan - 30 days, visa issued on arrival
 China, Shenzhen - 7 days if arriving from Hong Kong, and is valid in Shenzhen area only.
 Hong Kong - 14 days validity
 India - 30 days visa issued on arrival
 Iran - 15 days, must obtain an e-visa pre-approval code from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
 Israel - 90 days
 Laos - 21 days, visa on arrival
 Macau - 30 days
 Maldives - 30 days visa issued upon arrival
 Myanmar - 21 days
 Mongolia - 21 days
 Nepal - 21 days visa issued on arrival
 Republic of Georgia – 90 days visa issued upon arrival, 360 days visa free to those who
have temporary residence of Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait
 South Korea - 30 days, if arriving at Jeju Island or after visiting Korea 4 times with visa
 Sri Lanka - 30 days, but must get an Electronic Visa Authorization prior to departure.
 Taiwan - 30 days, if holding a permanent residence certificate or an unexpired visa from: Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Schengen countries, United Kingdom or United States. And must register online at prior to arrival.
 Timor-Leste (a.k.a. East Timor)- 30 day visa issued at the Dili airport and seaport

African Continent
 Burundi – 21 days
 Cape Verde Islands – 21 days
 Comoros – 21 days
 Djibouti – 30 day visa issued on arrival
 Gambia – visa issued upon arrival
 Kenya - 90 days visa issued on arrival
 Madagascar - 90 days visa issued on arrival
 Morocco - 90 days
 Mozambique - 30 days visa issued on arrival
 Saint Helena - visa issued upon arrival
 Seychelles – 30 days, must show sufficient funds & proof of accommodation
 Tanzania - visa issued on arrival
 Togo (Togolese Republic) - 7 days, visa issued on arrival. Requires yellow fever vaccination
 Uganda - 90 day visa issued on arrival at Entebbe Airport
 Zambia - 90 days visa issued on arrival

Central America
 Costa Rica - 30 days Visitor's Permit issued upon arrival
 Nicaragua - 90 days visa issued on arrival

 Anguilla - 21 days
 Dominica - 21 days
 Haiti - 21 days
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines - 30 days visa issued on arrival
 Turks and Caicos Islands - 21 days

 Kosovo - 90 days

Oceania/Pacific Island Nations
 Cook Islands - 31 days
 Fiji - 120 days, Visitor's Permit issued on arrival
 Marshall Islands - 30 days visa issued on arrival
 Micronesia - 30 days, entry permit required for stays over 30 days
 Nauru - 30 days
 Niue - 30 days
 Northern Marianas  - visa issued on arrival
 Palau - 30 days visa issued on arrival
 Papua New Guinea - 60 days, visa given on arrival
 Pitcairn Islands - 14 days, entry permit given on arrival
 Samoa - 60 days Visitor's Permit issued upon arrival
 Tuvalu - 30 day visitor permit for tourist is issued upon arrival
 Vanuatu - 30 days

South America
 Bolivia - 90 days
 Brazil - 90 days
 Colombia - 90 days
 Ecuador - 90 days
 Peru - 183 days
 Suriname - 90 days

Note that while the countries above does not require Philippine passport holders to apply for a visa

 in the Philippines, some will require a visa (and issue one upon arrival) after filling anapplication form 
and paying the fees. You may be required to produce your return or onward ticket and demonstrate
 sufficient funds to cover your stay. Most states require that passportshave at least 6 months 
validity to gain entry.
My note: whatever/wherever we are going please observe and respect the
country's laws,customs,religion and people. Let us hope that on June 2014 will
also implement visa-free for Filipinos with the conditions /regulations that
comes to it by the Japanese government.