New virus on the rise in China: How worried should Jamaicans be?

A new form of viral pneumonia has been spreading throughout central China, having to date (January 21) claimed the lives of four persons.

What’s more is that the senior health official investigating the outbreak of pneumonia stemming from a new coronavirus has revealed that the disease can be spread through person to person contact, further adding that transmission can be curtailed with increased vigilance.

Although Jamaica is over 14,000 km (8,717 miles) away from China, the ease of global travel means that this virus could be a potential threat.

How worried should Jamaicans be?

According to a University of Edinburgh Professor, while the symptoms are more than cold-like which is concerning, it is not as severe as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged the seriousness of the virus but added that based on currently available information, the organization does not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade.

Instead, the WHO has issued a set of guidelines on how to manage the virus, including how to monitor for sick people, test samples, treat patients, control infection in health centres, maintain the right supplies, and communicate with the public about this new virus.

The WHO has further encouraged afflicted countries to continue strengthening their preparedness for health emergencies in line with the International Health Regulations (2005).

How prepared is Jamaica?

In a statement on Monday, January 19,Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Karen Webster Kerr, noted that “Jamaica has a robust surveillance system already in place to detect emerging diseases”.

Dr.Karen Webster Kerr -Chief Medical Officer

The Ministry of Health and Wellness echoing the sentiment of the WHO, said that preparedness activities will continue for the prevention and containment of this disease, highlighting that such activities include: surveillance, early detection, and rapid isolation and treatment of all cases.

Dr. Webster Kerr also encouraged travellers to be cautious.

“We want to remind persons to pay attention to the standard infection prevention and control precautions, especially as it relates to viral respiratory illnesses. Travellers to the affected areas where the outbreak is present should take the necessary steps to prevent the introduction of the disease into the island,”said Webster Kerr.

“Overall good personal hygiene is the main way to prevent and reduce transmission of respiratory diseases.” Webster Kerr added.

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illnesses such as coughing and sneezing.