The Ministry of Health will be restoring their pandemic influenza plan as a safety precaution measure following the recent outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China.
Since the virus has no cure, specified treatment, or vaccine, Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health Dr Irad Potter told BVI News that the ministry’s ‘influenza plan’ will be used to combat the virus if it travels to the BVI. He said the measures in the territory’s influenza plan are supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“We’ve been monitoring the situation, and among the significant things are that the virus — like other coronaviruses — are presenting a cough and a fever with an upper respiratory tract infection; except when there are complications, which usually leads to respiratory distress, shortness of breath and sometimes pneumonia,” Dr Potter stated.
He added, “Because it is a flu-like illness, we’ve decided what we need to be doing in terms of public-health measures is reflected in our pandemic influenza plan. So we are refreshing our pandemic influenza plan in light of the coronavirus outbreak to ensure that, within the health services and public health and border protection agencies, they are able to respond if or when the virus does come to our shores.”
Lower risk of coronavirus coming to BVI
Dr Potter, in the meantime, said the risk of the virus coming to BVI shores is low considering that there are no direct flights from China to the BVI.
Persons must traverse through many other airports before reaching the territory and Dr Potter said this will help to further safeguard the BVI as each port of entry will have various screening measures in effect.
He, however, said the relevant authorities in the BVI still have screening protocols and emergency plans to follow, should any traveller present any signs of the virus.
“Our screening will involve questioning at airports and if there is a suspected case, the protocols which are in place to transport persons from the airport will kick in. The Health Services Authority have plans that will take the patient from the Airports Authority to the health services, and the ambulance responds. We have nebulizers to ensure that the staff are also protected,” Dr Potter said.
“There will be a general messaging to the population that if you have travelled to China within the last two weeks and you are feeling ill, please contact the Ministry of Health or your local health provider,” he added.
Sanitisation key to safeguarding
The Chief Medical Officer also said that despite the risk being low for the territory at this time, the situation is constantly changing as the numbers of infected persons keep increasing. Therefore, he advised that persons use various sanitary measure to reduce their chances of contracting any virus.
“That means we have to strengthen public health measures which will include handwashing with soap and water often. Where soap and water is not available, there is the option of hand sanitiser products; sanitisation of surfaces because people cough and they contaminate surfaces of the environment.”
What is 2019-nCoV?
According to the WHO the virus which originated in Wuhan China, is a new strain of the coronavirus which results in viral respiratory disease. It stems from the family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus.
Reports from international news agencies have confirmed that more than 4,500 persons have now been infected with the virus with at least 106 fatalities.
The United States has confirmed five cases of the virus to date, with more than 60 additional persons being tested for the disease.
Also reporting a confirmed case of the virus is Canada. Canadian officials have said the case involves a man in his fifties who recently flew from Wuhan, China to Guangzhou, China and then on to Toronto on January 23.
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