HEALTH Minister Dr Duane Sands. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune staff
By EARYEL BOWLEG
LOCAL health officials have heightened surveillance for a new coronavirus, a deadly respiratory infection, that has spread from China to the United States.
The virus has sickened more than 300 people in Asia and killed six, according to international reports. The first US case was announced yesterday.
Health officials are in the process of acquiring a test for the virus. Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said there had been some adjustments, such as increasing surveillance for virus symptoms and flagging individuals who travelled from China to do secondary inspections to determine if these person are showing signs of the coronavirus.
The minister added: “At this point, it’s just information sharing about how people present, what symptoms they have, how do you evaluate the patients, what steps should we take, etc. Bear in mind we have done training for Ebola, we’ve done training for Influenza, measles.
“So, we live in a different world that we once used to live in….so on any given day patients can present with a number of different contagious diseases.”
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported on its website that it is closely monitoring developments around a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
“Chinese authorities identified the new coronavirus, which has resulted in close to 300 confirmed cases in China, including cases outside Wuhan City, with additional cases being identified in a growing number of countries internationally,” the CDC said. “The first case in the United States was announced on January 21, 2020. There are ongoing investigations to learn more.”
Symptoms of the virus are respiratory problems, difficulty breathing, fever, cough, and pneumonia.
Dr Sands said he has been in talks with Pan American Health Organisation partners over the issue.
Dr Sands posted on Facebook: “PAHO has activated its emergency management system. Evidence-based training documents are being prepared as well as technical guidelines. The World Health Organisation International Health Regulations Emergency Committee is going to convene tomorrow (Wednesday) and its recommendations will be shared.”
WHO has not recommended travel restrictions, but Dr Sands has stated that three airports in the United States have put in place selective screening.
Dr Sands said that although the ministry is keeping an eye on updates,“there are far more deadly viruses that are in the Bahamas.”
“So, I’m talking about imported causes of measles and influenza,” he explained. “So, when you look at the risk of death, the risk of illness, while this new virus has captivated the world’s attention, many people have ignored the advice that can save their life and the risk of them honestly is far greater than it is from this coronavirus.
“And it becomes very important for us to consistently remind people, take care of the things you can take care of ‘cause at this point we don’t have (a) vaccine for coronavirus and we are just learning about how to treat it, but we can certainly prevent influenza and we can certainly prevent measles.”