Liberia: Public Health Authorities Release Health Advisory on Coronavirus Outbreak in China

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Monrovia – The National Public Health Institute of Liberia has released a public health advisory to the Liberian public on the coronavirus outbreak in the People’s Republic of China.

The advisory, approved by the Ministry of Health and released on Thursday in Monrovia, was read by the Director-General of NPHIL, Dr. Mossoka Fallah.

He stated that “Liberia will continue to strengthen preparedness for health emergencies in line with the International Health Regulations (2005) at the airports”.

The advisory also disclosed that “there is no specific treatment for disease caused by the novel coronavirus” but added that “supportive care for infected persons can be highly effective.”

It can be recalled that on 31 December 2019, a cluster of pneumonia of unknown etiology was reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. A novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as the causative virus by Chinese authorities on 7 January this year.

There have been fears that the virus would spread if infected persons travel and come in contact with others. There is evidence of human-to-human transmission with the virus spreading from patients to family members and healthcare workers, researchers have said.

The BBC reported on Thursday that understanding more about how the virus transmits between people is one of the major outstanding questions in this outbreak. The virus infects the lungs, and symptoms start with a fever and cough. It can progress to shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, scientists say.

Curbing Risk of Importation

In Liberia, NPHIL says it is “currently coordinating with partners to continuously assess and manage the risk of importation” and has put in place “port health services” which has “heightened screening measures at the point of entry”.

At the same time, NPHIL says several other public health measures are being communicated to Liberians to ensure they protect themselves. Some of the measures include: avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections; frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment; and avoiding close contact with live or dead farm or wild animals.

NPHIL also warned that “travelers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette, which means maintaining distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands”.

“Please report to the nearest facility, any person with severe acute respiratory infection (SARI), with history of fever and cough requiring admission to hospital, with no other etiology that fully explains the clinical presentation,” the advisory stressed. 

New Information Emerging

As this is a new virus, new information is emerging every day, this advisory will be updated as new information and research on the virus and its impact on populations become available, NPHIL disclosed, while urging people to remain calm.  

“The MoH through NPHIL and its partners are fully committed to strengthening our preparedness and response to infectious diseases outbreak. Information will be shared with the public as it becomes available.” 

Stricter Health Screening 

Meanwhile, the Public Health Institute has stressed that while the cause of pneumonia seems to be a novel coronavirus, its transmission potential and modes of transmission remain unclear.

“Therefore, it would be prudent to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections while travelling in or from affected areas. Liberia will be stricter about health screenings of airplane passengers arriving from Wuhan,” NPHIL stated.

Travelers from Liberia to Wuhan, Guangdong, Beijing and Shanghai are advised to avoid contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead), and animal markets. Travelers from China to Liberia – may be asked questions upon arrival by the port health officers at the points of entry. 

Wuhan city is a major transport hub in China. Given the heavy population movements, cases are expected to significantly increase during the Chinese New Year in the last week of January, the risk of cases being reported form elsewhere is increased. 

314 Confirmed Cases; Six Deaths 

So far, as of January 21, a total of 314 confirmed cases have been reported including six deaths reported deaths from China. 

Out of the 314 cases reported, 309 cases were reported from China, two from Thailand, one from Japan and one from the Republic of Korea; Cases in Thailand, Japan and the Republic of Korea were exported from Wuhan City, China; Of the 309 confirmed cases in China, 270 cases were confirmed from Wuhan; Of the 270 cases, 51 cases are severely ill and 12 are in critical condition.  

The United States has its first confirmed case arriving from Wuhan, China. He arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on January 15 and sought medical attention on the 19 January, 2020.many of the initial cases were taught to have contacted the virus through animal-to-human transmission has been established. Global surveillance is being established and it is expected that more cases will be reported over the next weeks  

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, and cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 

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