CARPHA raises coronavirus alert to very high
The risk of transmission for the coronavirus (COVID-19) to the Caribbean Region has been upgraded to very high.
The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) today, March 6, revised the risk level based on international risk assessment guidelines, particularly in keeping with risk assessment for MERS-COV and pandemic influenza.
CARPHA Executive Director, Dr Joy St John stated: “CARPHA’s decision is also informed by reports of COVID-19 cases in non-English-speaking Caribbean countries in close proximity to CARPHA Member States.
Another factor is sustained transmission of the disease in countries with direct flights into the Caribbean region.”
The agency says additionally, multiple countries outside the original epicentre of Wuhan City are reporting an increasing number of confirmed cases; while significantly more new cases are being reported from countries outside of China than there are new cases in China.
It says these recent situations are clearly of concern and strongly urges CARPHA Member States (CMS) to increase their surveillance mechanisms and to be ready to implement their national pandemic preparedness plans, which have been modified to address COVID-19.
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), neither is there a specific treatment.
Dr St John said: “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Simple everyday preventive actions can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.”
She urges persons to pay attention to standard infection prevention and control precautions:
Maintain at least one metre (three feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing;
Wash hands regularly, using soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty.
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, with your bent elbow or a tissue. Throw away used tissue immediately and wash hands;
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and especially after touching contaminated surfaces or sick people;
If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with a relevant health care provider.
Over the past week, 11 coronavirus cases were confirmed in the Caribbean region.
Five in French Guiana, two in Martinique, two in French Saint Martin, one in St Barthelemy and one in the Dominican Republic.