(SNO) – The Caribbean now has the facility to test for the dreaded novel coronavirus which originated in China and which has killed hundreds and has spread fears around the globe.
The Ministry of Health in Saint Lucia said one of the gaps in managing the virus has been diagnostic testing, although there are no cases on the island or the wider Caribbean.
However, the lack of regional testing for the virus is now a thing of the past.
“As of Friday, February 7, 2020 the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad has indicated that they have developed the capacity to facilitate regional testing,” the ministry said in a statement. “CARPHA Medical Microbiology Laboratory (CMML) is accepting specimens for diagnostic testing by molecular method. The turnaround time is 24-48 hours from receipt of the specimen at CMML.”
Meanwhile, the ministry said that the Department of Health and Wellness continues to strengthen its preparedness plans to manage the virus threat.
“Engagements are scheduled with the hotel and tourism sector, the private business sector and the education sector, in an effort to strengthen stakeholder participation and preparation,” the statement from the ministry said.
The public is encouraged to continue practicing the standard recommendations to prevent the spread of infection.
– regular hand washing with soap and water or alcohol based hand sanitizer where soap and water is not available.
– cover mouth and nose with disposable tissues or clothing when coughing and sneezing.
– avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
– seek medical attention and share your travel history with your health care provider if you have symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travel.
Corona viruses 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-nCoV). The signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. In the severe cases of the diseases, pneumonia may develop severe respiratory syndrome and death. This new strain has not been previously identified in humans.
Presently, there is limited information on the characterization of the behavior of the virus, the severity of infection and the levels of transmissibility.
As of February 10, 2020, the WHO reported a total of 40,235 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV from China. There are now 319 confirmed cases in 24 countries which include: Thailand (32), Japan (26), and the Republic of Korea (27), Vietnam (14), Singapore (43), Australia (15), Malaysia (18), Cambodia (1), Philippines (3), Nepal (1), Sri Lanka (1), India (3), United States of America (12), Canada (7), France (11), Finland (1), Germany (14), Italy (3), Russian Federation (2), United Kingdom (4), Belgium (1), Spain (2), Sweden (1) and United Arab Emirates (7). Cases on an international conveyance (Japan) (70).