Ministry of Health Warns of Risk of Novel Corona Virus Outbreak in China

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The Ministry of Health released the following information regarding the outbreak of the new coronavirus respiratory infection taking place on the Mainland China.

There is an outbreak of a new coronavirus respiratory infection taking place on the Mainland China. It started in Wuhan City, China, which is the epicenter, and as of today Friday, January 24, 2020 over eight (8) countries have reported confirmed cases to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The latest two countries to report confirmed cases are the United States of America (USA) and France. Thus far, there are over 830 cases (suspected and confirmed) and approximately twenty-six (26) deaths.

Person to person transmission is occurring and older persons with chronic diseases are seriously impacted. The symptoms include: fever, chills, runny nose, muscle pains, and difficulty breathing and coughing — which may signal that the person has a lower respiratory illness.

The health risk from this new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to the people of the Federation and the wider Caribbean is still deemed to be low. However, we must take proactive preparedness precautions.

The Federation’s preparedness precautions include:

  • The Ministry of Health (MOH) continues to recommend good personal hygiene practices to prevent the common cold/flu:
  • Hand-washing;
  • Covering the nose and mouth with tissue or flexed elbow when coughing and sneezing;
  • Avoiding close contact to anyone with cold or flu symptoms; and
  • Remaining at home from school if one has a cold or flu.

It must be noted that all incoming air travelers to the Federation must complete question # 17 of the “Welcome to St. Kitts and Nevis” Immigration/Customs Form. This question requires a listing of all countries travelers may have visited in the past six (6) months. Incoming travelers from the Mainland China will be asked to provide travel history, history of exposure to virus, and contact information.

All suspected cases (based on case definitions by WHO) will be evaluated and managed. The Emergency Committee of the WHO met on January 22, 2020 and decided that at present the outbreak does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

The Federal Ministry of Health wishes to inform the public that there will be increased surveillance of all incoming travelers at our ports of entry (POEs), particularly involving all international flights and the following three (3) regional hubs – Antigua, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico.

The Office of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has stressed that The National Pandemic Influenza/Virus Preparedness Plan is being updated, and that the public will be updated on this new coronavirus infection as often as may be required.

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