PRESS RELEASE ON NOVEL CORONA VIRUS
The Ministry of Health would like to inform the general public of the outbreak of Novel Corona Virus (nCoV) disease in Wuhan, China. The general public is hereby informed that the Ministry of Health is fully aware of the situation and closely monitoring it.
According to the World Health Organization, corona viruses are a family of viruses that causes illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). These viruses are transmitted between animals and people. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
A novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7 and currently named 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans. Little is known about it, although human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.
The Ministry of Health is currently engaging relevant partners local and international such as World Health Organization, African Centre for Disease Control, West Africa Health Organization and United States Centre for Disease Control to share information on recommended case definitions, protocols on case detection and management, sample collection and transport to designated regional laboratories and to better prepare the country for proper response to the ongoing pandemic of Novel Corona Virus disease in China.
The Ministry of Health after receiving the news has its technical team evolve strategies for monitoring, identification and containment of the spread of the virus. The Ministry of Health:
1. Is in contact with and has shared all relevant information with health regions and hospitals to be on the alert. It further urges all Health Regions and Hospitals to enhance their systems to deal with and contain severe acute respiratory infections especially unusual pneumonia cases, detection and management systems;
2. Is strengthening the surveillance system especially at all Points of Entry (land, sea and air) to enhance screening for severe respiratory illnesses and history of travel;
3. Will continue to provide updates about the spread and risks associated with the virus transmission as and when the information becomes available;
4. Has reactivated the national steering and technical committees for proper coordination and resource mobilization;
5. Through the Directorate of Health Promotion and Education (DHEP) is working on activating and widening the public call center using the available 1025 free toll service for use by the general public.
According the World Health Organization, the outbreak does not yet constitute a global health emergency, and thus there is no cause for alarm as all measures to prevent the disease from entering The Gambia will be put up by the Ministry of Health and its partners. The general public is hereby informed that the required logistics and manpower are readily available to deal with the situation in case of any suspected or confirmed case of the disease.
According to the WHO, signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, and cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. The general public should look out for the signs plus history of recent travel to the affected areas or occupational exposure to wild life.
Experts indicate that it may not be as deadly as other types of coronavirus such as SARS, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide during a 2002-2003 outbreak that also originated from China. MERS, which did not spread as widely, was more deadly, killing a third of those it infected. Currently there is no case reported in The Gambia, but the general public need to be vigilant.
The general public is advised to remain calm and continue on their daily activities of life. However, we should all be cautious in reporting all unusual respiratory symptoms and very high fevers to the nearest health facilities or call Toll Free Number 1025 to get more information on novel corona virus.
The pandemic is yet to be declared by the WHO as a global public health emergency but efforts are still underway to share relevant information for necessary actions to be taken.
The Ministry of Health however advises the general public to take the following precautionary measures:
o Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol hand sanitizer.
o Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
o Avoid close contact with people who are coughing and having fever.
o When you cough or sneeze, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
o Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces like doorknobs, tables, chairs etc
The support and cooperation of the general public is highly solicited.
PRESS RELEASE ON NOVEL CORONA VIRUS