No restriction of travel or trade necessary, says minister
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Bahamas is monitoring an outbreak of a novel coronavirus (nCoV) in China, confirmed Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands yesterday.
The virus is from the same family of viruses as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The World Health Organization has categorized it as “a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.”
“An animal source seems the most likely primary source of this novel coronavirus outbreak, with some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts,” the organization said on Sunday.
Three people have reportedly died so far.
In an interview with Eyewitness News on the matter, Sands said, “This virus as frightening as it seems, has captivated the attention of the world and people are paying attention to it.
“So PAHO and WHO are making recommendations and we are following those recommendations.
“At this time there are no recommendations that we close any airports or adjust what we are doing.
“We are following the best practices and we are reviewing this several times a day.”
WHO said in a statement last week that its China Country office was informed of cases of pneumonia of “unknown cause” detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China, on December 31, 2019.
On January 7, a novel coronavirus was identified as the causative virus by Chinese authorities.
According to WHO, China reported 139 new cases of the virus in Wuhan, Beijing and Shenzhen over the weekend, as a result of increased searching and testing for the virus among people sick with respiratory illness.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
However, in more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
“Based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend any restriction of travel or trade,” the organization said.
“Countries are encouraged to continue strengthening their preparedness for health emergencies in line with the International Health Regulations (2005).
“Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
“Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.”
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will convene emergency committee on the matter on Wednesday, in order to “ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be made to manage the outbreak”.
Sands noted yesterday that Bahamians should not be alarmed.
“I want to put this in context,” he said.
“There have been three deaths from this virus.
“On contrast, around the world we have had almost 100,000 deaths from measles and many thousands of deaths from influenza.
“So in terms of the threat, measles and influenza are far greater threats than this new virus, more deadly and is a real problem in The Bahamas.
“So what I would like people to do is to pay attention, but let us not exaggerate the response.
“At this point, the world is paying attention, but you are more likely to die from measles than this virus.
“…Public health will be vigilant.”
Echoing the sentiments of WHO, Sands added, “At this point in time, we do not believe that there is any need for us to change our surveillance, or our travel policy, airport policy etc.
“We will make a decision again tomorrow and the day after that.
“We are monitoring. I think every country in the world is paying attention to this.”