On Alert: Jamaica says robust system in place to detect deadly coronavirus

Jamaica says it has a robust surveillance system already in place to detect emerging diseases and has no case of the new virus that has caused the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) to urge its member states, including those in the Caribbean, to strengthen surveillance activities to detect any unusual respiratory health event.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Karen Webster Kerr is confident of Jamaica’s surveillance system for the deadly Novel Coronavirus (nCoV). (Photo: JIS)

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Karen Webster Kerr says the island’s preparedness activities will continue for the prevention and containment of the deadly Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) that has been blamed for several deaths in Asia and hundreds of suspected cases.

She said that these activities include surveillance, early detection, and rapid isolation and treatment of all cases.

The Ministry of Health and wellness said that to date, there have been reports that China has a cluster of cases of pneumonia caused by a new strain of coronavirus in Wuhan City.

There have also been exported cases from China to other countries, namely Thailand and Japan.  All these persons had travelled to Wuhan City and officials in China have linked the viral infections to a Wuhan seafood and wildlife market.

The spread of the virus comes as China gets ready for the Lunar New Year holiday later this week. The holiday period typically sees millions of Chinese travellers throughout the country and overseas.

“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 an introduction of the disease into the island,” Dr. Kerr said.

PAHO/WHO said that while cases have been reported in China, Thailand and Japan, there is “no evidence to suggest that person-to-person transmission occurs easily,” and suggests that national authorities “review the actions considered in response to the spread of SARS CoV in 2003, adapting and/or adopting those that are proportionate to the current risk.”

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).