The Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports and Human Services (MoHAHS) is closely monitoring international alerts concerning a new strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV), causing severe respiratory tract infections. The virus was first identified in Wuhan City, China and has now spread to at least four other countries (Japan, Thailand, Korea and the USA). China reports 198 confirmed infected persons and 3 deaths. There has been no reports of infection in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses, some of which cause illnesses in humans while others circulate among animals. In rare cases, animal coronavirus change and infect humans and spread from person to person. Many persons infected with this new strain of coronavirus have reported contact with seafood and animal markets, indicating that the disease is being spread via animal-to-person. Investigation is now indicating that the disease is also spread via person-to-person.
There is still much to learn about how this new disease is spread. As investigation continues, the public is advised to be vigilant and exercise the usual precautions for the prevention of the flu. Travelers, and specifically those traveling to Wuhan, China, are encouraged to:
- Avoid animals (including carcasses), animal markets, and animal products (such as uncooked meat).
- Avoid contact with persons having flulike symptoms, such as fever and cough.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
Common symptoms of this new virus are fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. If you traveled to Wuhan and have these symptoms you should stay home, avoid contact with others and seek urgent medical care. Call ahead of the doctor’s visit and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. Remember, do not travel while sick.
MoHAHS is monitoring the situation and remains in close communication with key local and regional stakeholders, including CARPHA and PAHO. MoHAHS is being guided by international alerts on this rapidly evolving situation and will continue to review its preparedness to respond in accordance with International Health Regulations. Updated information will be provided as it becomes available.