The Public Health Ministry is putting measures in place to prevent any outbreak of the coronavirus in Guyana. This is according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO) Dr Karen Gordon-Boyle.
The coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China, late last year and would have infected thousands to date.
Speaking with Guyana Times, Dr Gordon-Boyle said the country’s port health officials have been alerted and are sensitised as to how to detect “signs and symptoms” of the malady.
As such, a screening tool and a questionnaire will be used to gather information on the onset and natural course of illnesses of persons suspected of having the virus.
Gordon-Boyle disclosed that in the new week, training programmes targeting key staff including port health officers, immigration officers and customs officers will be conducted by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in collaboration with Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
In addition, the DCMO stated that the Infection Control and Prevention Committee of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) is ensuring that the medical institution is in a state of readiness to care for any infected person.
“Any person experiencing fever or flu-like symptoms should visit the GPHC or the nearest regional hospital,” Dr Gordon-Boyle urged.
Moreover, symptoms of the ailment include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat fever and a general sense of being unwell. Patients can develop pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and in severe cases, even death.
While the incubation period for affected persons is still not known, it is advised that patients be isolated from the healthy population for some 10 to 14 days.
In the event that a person shows up with the coronavirus, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) are being asked to support with the testing of samples, Dr Gordon-Boyle said.
Globally, there have been 440 confirmed cases of patients with pneumonia blamed on the new strain of coronavirus. The authorities said that many of the patients are residents of Wuhan or visitors who recently went to the city.
Thailand and Japan have also confirmed at least one case among tourists who visited Wuhan. Early last week, the US CDC announced the first case in the USA.
The outbreak of the virus has been linked to Wuhan South China Seafood City, also called the South China Seafood Wholesales Market and the Hua Nan Seafood Market. Chickens, bats, cats, marmots, and other wild animals are also available for sale in that market, suggesting a possible zoonotic origin to the outbreak.
So far, the WHO has been counselling hospitals around the world on infection, prevention and control. However, the global body has “advised against travel or trade restrictions at this time based on available information,” a statement said.
Other international public health institutions such as the US CDC, China CDC, and European CDC are working on the design and eventual distribution of diagnostic kits to other countries. “In any case, it is expected that a consensus test will potentially be available at least some weeks from now,” the release said.
CARPHA in a prepared statement said it “does not recommend at this time to conduct entrance screening (temperature screening) at ports of entry. Passengers would already have been screened when exiting the Wuhan area and upon arrival in the US,” the regional body said in a release.
“Member States are recommended to capture information on travel history using the Passenger Arrival Card or surveys, for all new arrivals. Arrivals that have recently travelled to China, especially to the Wuhan area, should be questioned for symptoms and advised to be vigilant for onset of those symptoms and to seek immediate medical attention at a public health facility. Passengers should be advised to seek medical care as soon as symptoms arise,” CARPHA counselled.
Only last week, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo urged authorities to put systems in place to ensure the population is protected.
“This virus has the potential of reaching epidemic proportions and we should be ready as a country to address this situation,” Jagdeo lamented.
“We have to be ready for any possibility of an outbreak here in Guyana,” he reaffirmed.
With cases of the virus confirmed in the Americas and a suspected case in neighbouring Brazil, Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence has not yet addressed the nation on the issue.
The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, last year and at least 56 people have died and more than 2000 are presently receiving treatment for the disease.
Chinese authorities have imposed lockdown measures on five cities in an unprecedented effort to contain the outbreak, which has already been reported in at least eight other countries including the United States.