Health Ministry activating response to new virus

Tuesday, January 21, 2020 - 15:15

Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh says the Min­istry of Health is ac­ti­vat­ing emer­gency pro­to­cols- in­clu­sive of ther­mal body scan­ning at all ports of en­try- in re­sponse to the coro­n­avirus which was first re­port­ed in Chi­na in De­cem­ber 2019.


In an in­ter­view with Guardian Me­dia, Deyals­ingh said al­though the like­li­hood of the virus reach­ing Trinidad and To­ba­go is re­mote, the Min­istry is tak­ing all pos­si­ble pre­cau­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO), the Coro­n­avirus­es are a large fam­i­ly of virus­es that are known to cause ill­ness rang­ing from the com­mon cold to more se­vere dis­eases such as Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS) and Se­vere Acute Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (SARS). A nov­el Coro­n­avirus (CoV) is a new strain of coro­n­avirus that has not been pre­vi­ous­ly iden­ti­fied in hu­mans.  

WHO says a typ­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion of MERS-CoV dis­ease is fever, cough and short­ness of breath. Pneu­mo­nia is a com­mon find­ing, but not al­ways present. Gas­troin­testi­nal symp­toms, in­clud­ing di­ar­rhoea, have al­so been re­port­ed. Se­vere ill­ness can cause res­pi­ra­to­ry fail­ure that re­quires me­chan­i­cal ven­ti­la­tion and sup­port in an in­ten­sive care unit.

The virus ap­pears to cause more se­vere dis­ease in old­er peo­ple, peo­ple with weak­ened im­mune sys­tems, and those with chron­ic dis­eases such as re­nal dis­ease, can­cer, chron­ic lung dis­ease, and di­a­betes.

“We will be in­tro­duc­ing ther­mal scan­ning, look­ing at the forms that cap­tains have to fill out on pas­sen­ger loads to de­ter­mine whether any­one trav­el­ling with them is ill and ac­ti­vat­ing the iso­la­tion ca­pac­i­ty at the Cau­ra Hos­pi­tal from to­day (Tues­day),” Deyals­ingh said this morn­ing.

Deyals­ingh said he will vis­it the Pi­ar­co In­ter­na­tion­al Air­port af­ter Cab­i­net on Thurs­day to en­sure that all pro­to­cols are work­ing and be­ing ad­hered to.

He is ad­vis­ing the pub­lic to take all pre­cau­tions to pro­tect them­selves, just as with any oth­er con­ta­gious flu.

“One of the best ways to lim­it trans­mis­sion is ba­sic hy­gien­ic prac­tices, such as prop­er­ly wash­ing your hands, cov­er­ing your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, seek med­ical at­ten­tion as soon as pos­si­ble if you are sick and iso­late your­self if you are sick, do not go to work, do not go to school and do not go in­to pub­lic places where you can in­fect oth­ers.”

He said those who have re­cent­ly been sick al­so need to take ex­tra pre­cau­tions.

“Peo­ple who have any virus and who are im­muno-com­pro­mised will be a high­er risk of con­tract­ing any in­fec­tious dis­ease so they should take spe­cial pre­cau­tions.”

Reporter: Sharlene Rampersad