Quarantine for potential virus carriers

Wednesday January 29, 2020 Written by Published in Health
Samoan children wearing face masks.  Samoan children wearing face masks. AP 20012929

Government has announced far-reaching restrictions on travel to and from China, in the hope of stopping the fast-spreading Wuhan coronavirus reaching these islands.

Secretary of Health Dr Josephine Herman announced the new travel advisory shortly before 9 o’clock last night.

There have been at least 7800 cases of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus confirmed worldwide, though as many as 16,000 are suspected in China. Dr Herman said 170 people had been confirmed killed by the virus.

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More than 100 cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in 15 countries outside of China, with human-to-human transmission reported in Vietnam, Germany, and Japan, as well as China. Australia has reported seven cases. 

The World Health Organization risk assessment of 2019-nCoV virus is “very high” for China, and “high” for the Western Pacific region.

The National Health Emergency Taskforce met twice this week and yesterday, Cabinet held a special meeting to consider recommended strategies to minimise the virus’ impact on the Cook Islands population. 

It decided:

* Anyone who’s been to China in the past 30 days must put themselves in quarantine for 14 days, before coming to Cook Islands. If they have a fever and cough, they’re not welcome at all.

* Cook Islands residents should avoid non-essential travel to China, or be prepared to go into self-quarantine before returning. 

* Any overseas travel by government employees must be vetted by Te Marae Ora. 

* Te Marae Ora is to station public health nurse and mobile health bus at airport, and set up special flu clinic at Black Rock.

All arriving passengers will be advised of the symptoms of the coronavirus, and required to accurately complete the Passenger Arrival Card asking where they’ve travelled in the past 40 days. 

Dr Herman pleaded with those travelling overseas to take all practical measures to avoid close contact with people with flu-like illnesses, wash your hands regularly, cover your coughs and sneezes, and avoid contact with animals including visiting animal markets. 

Te Marae Ora strongly recommends travellers avoid all non-essential and non-urgent travel to cities and areas where the coronavirus infection has been reported. 

The Ministry will provide a public health nurse at Rarotonga airport for all international arrivals. The mobile health bus will be based at Rarotonga airport, on standby, should an ill traveller require medical attention. 

And a special “flu” clinic will be established at Black Rock Clinic from next week and will open from 8am to 2pm Monday to Friday. This clinic will receive all patients with coughs, fevers and difficulty breathing. 

Dr Herman said this was important to protect patients at Rarotonga Hospital and Tupapa community clinic. 

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold to more  severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). 

The best way to prevent 2019-nCoV infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

The Ministry of Health recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses.

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