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  • By Pacific island Times News Staff

CNMI, Guam prepare for possible coronavirus outbreak

(Updated 4:54 p.m. Jan, 27)

Guam and the CNMI are considered to be at low risk from coronavirus outbreak at this time but local officials to continue to monitor the situation.

"Officials are aware of a message circulating on social media and chat groups of a confirmed case in Saipan. This is false information. There are no reported suspected or confirmed infections with 2019-nCoV on Guam or within the Mariana Islands at this time," states a press release from Guam Homeland Security.

"With more than a thousand infections with 2019-nCoV in China, including outside the Hubei Province, as well as reported infections in a growing number of international locations, including the United States, more cases are likely to be identified in the coming days. As reported by CDC, it is unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading to people but it is evident that person-to-person spread is occurring," GHS said.

On Jan. 23, 2020, the Center for Disease Control raised its travel alert for the coronavirus outbreak. The travel notice for Wuhan City was raised to Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel and also issued a Level 1: Practice Usual Precautions for the rest of China.

On Saipan, CNMI Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres called for a meeting on Sunday with officials from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHCC), Commonwealth Ports Authority, Marianas Visitors Authority, CNMI Division of Customs, Department of Public Safety (DPS), Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to discuss the ongoing surveillance of coronavirus, which has caused a public health emergency in China.

Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) is not considering this to be a global public health emergency.

On Guam, the Department of Public Heath and Social Services said it is working with partner agencies, the Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense and Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency for situational awareness. The risk on Guam is relatively low since there are no direct flights from Wuhan City, China to Guam, officials said.

WHO was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China on Dec. 31, 2019. The virus did not match any other known virus. This raised concern because when a virus is new, we do not know how it affects people.

On Jan. 7, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a new virus. The new virus is a coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as SARS and MERS. This new virus was temporarily named “2019-nCoV.”

WHO has been working with Chinese authorities and global experts from the day we were informed, to learn more about the virus, how it affects the people who are sick with it, how they can be treated, and what countries can do to respond.

WHO officials said last week Chinese authorities presented new epidemiological information that revealed an increase in the number of cases, of suspected cases, of affected provinces, and the proportion of deaths in currently reported cases of 4 percent (17 of 557).

"They reported fourth-generation cases in Wuhan and second-generation cases outside Wuhan, as well as some clusters outside Hubei province. They explained that strong containment measures (closure of public-transportation systems are in place in Wuhan City, as well as other nearby cities)," WHO said, also noting the outbreaks in Japan, Republic of Korea and Thailand, and a new possible case identified in Singapore.

“When the news broke of the coronavirus, the CNMI increased locally-driven airport surveillance protocol, in which we observe and identify suspected travelers from China and the Asia region and implement follow-up questionnaires and mitigate any transmission on island. Contrary to rumors, we do not have any cases of coronavirus in the CNMI,”. Torres said. “The CNMI is the first place in the Pacific to implement this approach, which is accomplished in partnership with CHCC, Customs and CBP.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already confirmed two cases in the United States: first in Seattle and the second in Chicago. The WHO and CDC continue to monitor the outbreak and will continue to assist state and territorial health agencies around the country.

“CHCC has been working hand-in-hand with CPA, Customs, and US CBP in screening travelers to assess potential signs and symptoms before leaving the plane. As we continue to receive information from the WHO and CDC, we will make a formal determination with our tourism and airline partners on all flights from the Asia region.”

“Public health is our number one priority now, and CHCC and our first responders have confirmed that they are prepared and continue to strengthen response plans. This is not a moment for panic or alarm. It is a moment for being vigilant and to continue following proper hygiene for yourselves and your families,” Torres added.

Residents are advised to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of this type of illness:

● Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an 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.

● Avoid contact with sick people, and stay home or seek medical attention if you are not feeling well.


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