– but recommends preparedness
The World Health Organization (WHO) on January 09, 2020 reported that a 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified by Chinese authorities. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, and as with any other novel and imported disease, the 2019-nCoV is causing heightened concern in the region.
However, according to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the risk of the Caribbean attracting the deadly Coronavirus is very low.
Executive Director of CARPHA and Trinidadian national, Dr. Joy St. John, explained yesterday that, “Presently, there have been no confirmed cases or reports of the 2019-nCoV in the Caribbean region and based on current information, the immediate health risk from this virus to the general public remains low. CARPHA is monitoring developments and working closely with its international health partners to respond to this health threat and provide timely advice and support to the preparedness activities of Caribbean Member States.”
Nevertheless, this calming news does not translate that member states should let their guards down, as CARPHA was keen to recommend that preparation is much needed.
“CARPHA is aware that this is an early stage of the outbreak and is awaiting clarity on the characterization of the behaviour of the virus, including severity of the infection, and the level of transmissibility. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, CARPHA is recommending that Member States be proactive and vigilant. They must reinforce surveillance measures at points of entry, communication strategies which emphasize good hand hygiene, and measures targeted at reducing the importation of this new virus to our shores,” Dr. St John related.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. This 2019-nCoV virus is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.
According to WHO, there have been more than 500 cases reported globally, as at 21st January. However, late on 22nd January, the Chinese National Health Committee reported more than 571 confirmed cases of patients with pneumonia, and 17 fatalities caused by the 2019-nCoV. Imported cases have been reported by other countries including Thailand, Republic of Korea and the United States of America (USA).
Following this and in light of the recently confirmed case of the virus in the USA, CARPHA has issued advice to Health Authorities on measures to reduce the risk of importation of the disease to the Caribbean region, as well as advice to Caribbean travelers in the affected area in China.
“CARPHA is committed to supporting its Member States in refining existing influenza preparedness plans, refreshing training of health care works in universal precautions and the use of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), and implementing measures to protect the most vulnerable in our populations from developing the disease.
In the event that there is a suspected imported case of 2019-nCoV in the Region, CARPHA has already made arrangements with partner public health agencies for testing within the next three weeks, while we await delivery of necessary supplies,” the Executive Director said.
The Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) country office is set to host a press conference on Monday to brief the Guyanese public on the deadly coronavirus. Key personnel from the country office are communicating with counterparts in Washington DC in the USA, to garner updated information to reliably inform the public of how they can safeguard themselves against this virus.
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