Health braces for coronavirus

The Health Ministry says it is preparing for the potential threat of a new virus strain originating in China is spreading across the globe.

Cases of coronavirus have been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea. It has infected at least 200 people in China alone, and three people have died.

With the world’s Chinese celebrating the Lunar New Year this month increasing the number of travellers in and out of China, the Wuhan coronavirus is likely to spread further. 14 Chinese health workers have been infected already. 

Speaking on the phone to the Samoa Observer, Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen, the Deputy Director General for Public Health, said the Ministry of Health is working on a plan to combat the virus if it should land in Samoa and will advise the media when it is ready to be revealed. He was unable to explain further.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the World Health Organisation is convening an Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (named 2019-nCoV) under International Health Regulations to “ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be made to manage it,” a statement posted online said.         

The coronavirus causes a type of pneumonia and is passed from people to people. It has been shown to be genetically related to the S.A.R.S. virus (also a coronavirus) of the early 2000s which resulted in 774 deaths reported in 37 countries.

Imperial College London scientists are warning there could be as many as 1,700 infections, and passengers aboard aircraft in Wuhan have been screened by officials in full protective gear.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Samoa heard Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Mailelegaoi assure the members that the Ministry of Health is acting on the information available. 

Scientists believe a fish market in Wuhan is the source of the virus, and has been closed to the public and sealed off. The first case was reported on the 31st of December. An animal is the likely source of the infection but since the first case there has been human to human transmission. 

The World Health Organisation is warning people to avoid “unprotected contact” with live animals, or anyone with cold or flu like symptoms.

Signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

People should thoroughly cook and meat and eggs as a preventative measure. 

There are just six known infectious coronaviruses. This new disease, 2019-nCoV would make seven.

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