GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department from the Sint Maarten Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, is closely monitoring international health developments related to the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) respiratory virus in Asia.
Coronaviruses (CoV) 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).
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.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) said on Thursday that there have been no confirmed cases or reports of the respiratory illness in the Caribbean region based on current information, and that the immediate health risk from this virus to the general public remains low.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recently issued an alert to its member countries in the Americas about 2019-nCoV, recommending that they strengthen surveillance activities to detect patients with acute respiratory disease, and that health care workers have access to up to date information on the illness, be familiar with the principles and procedures for handling 2019-nCoV infections, and be trained to consult a patient’s travel history to link this information with clinical data.
Ministry VSA will continue to keep the public informed with respect to developments related to 2019-nCoV as information becomes available from PAHO and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO has already convened two meetings of Experts of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) who met on Wednesday and Thursday to determine whether 2019-nCoV is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
The Committee’s role is to give advice to the WHO Director-General, who makes the final decision on the determination of a PHEIC. The Committee also provides public health advice or suggests formal temporary recommendations as appropriate.
The Committee concluded that it is still too early to declare a PHEIC, given its restrictive and binary nature. The Committee stands ready to be reconvened in approximately ten days’ time, or earlier should the Director-General deem it necessary.
2019-nCoV was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan when a cluster was initially reported on 31 December 2019 to the WHO China Country Office. On 7 January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed the identification of the new type of coronavirus.
Several cases of the virus have been reported outside China, namely in Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the USA.
In connection with international travelers, the WHO says, while the cause of the pneumonia seems to be a novel coronavirus, transmission potential and modes of transmission remain unclear.
“Therefore, it would be prudent to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections while travelling in or from affected areas (currently Wuhan City) by:
- avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
- frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment;
- avoiding close contact with live or dead farm or wild animals;
- travellers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands).
For more information, you can call CPS 542-1322, 1122, 1222 or 542-1570.