BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, January 20, 2020 (CMC) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is urging member states, including those in the Caribbean, to strengthen surveillance activities, to detect any unusual respiratory health event, as the number of people, infected with a new virus in China, tripled over the weekend.
In addition, the PAHO/WHO said it is not recommending any screening at entry points regarding this event, nor any restrictions on travel or trade.
There are now more than 200 cases, mostly in Wuhan, though the respiratory illness has also been detected in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Three people have died, and Japan, Thailand and South Korea have also reported cases.
PAHO/WHO has issued an alert to its member countries on the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV), recommending that “health care workers have access to up-to-date information on the illness, be familiar with the principles and procedures for handling nCoV infections, and be trained to inquire about a patient’s travel history, in order to connect this information with clinical data”.
It said that while cases have been reported in China, Thailand and Japan, there is “no evidence to suggest that person-to-person transmission occurs easily”, and suggests that national authorities “review the actions considered, in response to the spread of SARS CoV in 2003, adapting and/or adopting those that are proportionate to the current risk”.
Coronaviruses (CoV) is 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).
A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people, PAHO/WHO said.
The outbreak has revived memories of the Sars virus – also a coronavirus – that killed 774 people in the early 2000s, across dozens of countries, mostly in Asia.
Over the weekend, the United States announced it would screen passengers arriving from central China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would begin taking temperatures, and asking about symptoms of passengers at three US airports who traveled from the outbreak city of Wuhan.