Mar 19, 2020 News
– says limiting interactions is key combative measure
Just over a week ago, the local Ministry of Public Health recorded its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus which the World Health Organisation [WHO] in February classified as a disease called COVID-19. The first local case, also referred to as ‘Patient Zero’ or the ‘Index Case’, was a woman in her 50s with underlying conditions who travelled from the United States days before she started manifesting symptoms of the virus here. The woman passed away at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC] reportedly after seeking medical attention at two other facilities.
A few days later, three more cases were confirmed, all relatives of Patient Zero – her husband, son and another relative. Yesterday another family was positively diagnosed bringing the total number of confirmed cases to five.
When the three cases, following ‘Patient Zero’, were diagnosed, there was much concern surrounding reports that they were not adhering to recommendations from the Health Ministry to self-quarantine. The concerns were linked to the fact that the disease has proven to be very contagious, and this was known since it surfaced in Wuhan, China towards the end of last year.
The disease, which according to reports has since spread to more than 100 countries, has thus far infected and killed upwards of 200,000 and 8,000 people, respectively.
The local Health Ministry has been trying to track persons, in the hundreds, who may have been in contact with persons who tested positive for the disease.
Additionally, 41 health workers from the GPHC alone, who attended to ‘Patient Zero’, in addition to a few others from a private hospital, have reportedly been quarantined.
Given the reach of the virus, Dr. Pheona Mohamed-Rambarran, the head of laboratory services at the GPHC, said that it was inevitable that the virus reached Guyana. Speaking on Kaieteur Radio’s [99.1 & 99.5 FM] Your Health Matters, on Monday, the medical practitioner, who also sits on a COVID-19 response Committee, said, “We must appreciate that our world is becoming more and more smaller because there is global travel and I believe because of the amount of travelling… it was inevitable…the disease basically moved from China to the Americas and now with our link to the Americas, I believe that is how it came.”
Considering that the virus has also reached the Caribbean and even neighbouring countries – Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil, Dr. Mohamed-Rambarran reiterated “it was inevitable because these are all countries that we interact with through travel.”
While some countries were swift to implement safeguards, in recent days Guyana decided to follow suit, which has included the closure of the two international airports – Cheddi Jagan International at Timehri, East Bank Demerara, and the Eugene F. Correira at Ogle, East Coast Demerara.
In addition to setting up mandatory quarantine facilities, a presidential order has also been gazetted to aid measures to contain the virus as far as possible.
But Dr. Mohamed assured, “We in the health care [system] are putting specific measures in place to prevent the widespread of the disease but as you are aware, it is a virus and even if persons become infected, it is not the end of the world.” Continuing, she added, “we can try to contain it, but it will still be here and the fact that you tend to restrict interactions that will limit the number of persons who get.”
With the advent of the disease, the term social distancing has been coined and, according to Dr. Mohamed-Rambarran, this simply means, “we do not socially gather. This means restriction on your church activities and your parties, the mall, going to the movies, to the market…”
Meanwhile, Public Health Consultant, Mr. Collin Haynes, in commenting on the exposure of frontline health worker, said, “At the moment, containment is key…if these staffers show no signs of the virus [such as] coughing, chills, headaches or tiredness, etc., they should be held in quarantine, monitored and tested until such signs have developed.”
Haynes has also commended the Ministry for moving to track probable cases adding, “We can focus on a national response plan that calls for containment centres in hospitals, screening those who have made contact with those infected and continued effective screening.”
Turning his attention to the country’s test ability, Haynes said, “We may not have the capacity at the moment to test everyone who came in contact because these tests may be in short supply.”
But according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer [DCMO], Dr. Karen Boyle this shouldn’t be a bother. Also speaking on Kaieteur Radio, the DCMO said that while the country has been faced with a limited number of testing kits in recent weeks, this is likely to be shortly addressed with an expected shipment. Currently, persons suspected to have the virus are diagnosed following preliminary tests at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory and these are then confirmed by a partner laboratory such as the Trinidad and Tobago headquartered Caribbean Public Health Agency [CARPHA].
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