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Risk of Novel Coronavirus in the Caribbean “Low” says CARPHA, but Preparation Needed

AS at 9th January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified by Chinese authorities. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr. Joy St. John said “Presently, there have been no confirmed cases or reports of the 2019-nCoV in the Caribbean region and based on current information, the immediate health risk from this virus to the general public remains low. CARPHA is monitoring developments and working closely with its international health partners to respond to this health threat and provide timely advice and support to the preparedness activities of Caribbean Member States.”

Coronaviruses are 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). Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. This 2019-nCoV virus is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.

“CARPHA is aware that this is an early stage of the outbreak and is awaiting clarity on the characterisation of the behaviour of the virus, including severity of the infection, and the level of transmissibility. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, CARPHA is recommending that Member States be proactive and vigilant. They must reinforce surveillance measures at points of entry, communication strategies which emphasize good hand hygiene, and measures targeted at reducing the importation of this new virus to our shores,” stated Dr. St John.

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