PAHO urges region to ramp up prep against Covid-19

The Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (PA­HO) is urg­ing coun­tries in the re­gion to in­ten­si­fy their plans to pre­pare and re­spond to Covid-19, giv­en the ap­pear­ance of cas­es of the new coro­n­avirus dis­ease in the Amer­i­c­as.

The ad­vi­so­ry comes as Brazil’s Min­istry of Health con­firmed the coun­try’s first case of Covid-19, yes­ter­day, Feb­ru­ary 26th. The pa­tient is a 61-year old man who re­cent­ly re­turned from trav­el to Italy, where an out­break of the virus has been on­go­ing, since last week. Brazil­ian au­thor­i­ties re­port­ed­ly are tak­ing mea­sures to pre­vent fur­ther spread of the dis­ease in­clud­ing a care­ful in­ves­ti­ga­tion of all rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion and fol­low­ing up with any­one who may have come in con­tact with the in­fect­ed pa­tient.

PA­HO Di­rec­tor Dr Caris­sa F. Eti­enne re­ports that the re­gion has been close­ly mon­i­tor­ing what has been hap­pen­ing in oth­er parts of the world.

Glob­al­ly, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) has con­firmed that Covid-19 al­ready has af­fect­ed 81,109 peo­ple in 38 coun­tries—78,191 of the cas­es are in Chi­na alone.

“For sev­er­al weeks, coun­tries in the Amer­i­c­as have been prepar­ing for the pos­si­ble im­por­ta­tion of cas­es of COVID-19,” Dr Eti­enne said. “There are mea­sures in place for de­tect­ing, di­ag­nos­ing and car­ing for pa­tients with dis­ease.”

While pledg­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s tech­ni­cal sup­port to coun­tries, Dr Eti­enne warns that in the event of an out­break of Covid-19 in Latin Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean, the im­pact on health ser­vices may be sig­nif­i­cant. The PA­HO head points to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that health ser­vices may be­come over­whelmed, in­clud­ing a high de­mand for spe­cial­ized hos­pi­tal ser­vices such as in­ten­sive care.

PA­HO is ad­vis­ing coun­tries to con­tin­ue fo­cussing on stop­ping trans­mis­sion of the virus. How­ev­er, it says coun­tries can em­ploy the same mul­ti-sec­toral pro­to­cols cre­at­ed to re­spond to in­fluen­za.

“Coun­tries of the Amer­i­c­as have al­ready been work­ing on these ar­eas since 2009 as part of their pan­dem­ic in­fluen­za plans,” Dr Eti­enne notes. “A mul­ti-sec­toral re­sponse to en­sure strength­ened sur­veil­lance, health ser­vice readi­ness, pre­vent­ing spread, and main­tain­ing es­sen­tial ser­vices, are key in­ter­ven­tions to slow trans­mis­sion and save lives. PA­HO stands ready to sup­port coun­tries in rolling out these plans.”

PA­HO re­it­er­ates that Covid-19 is trans­mit­ted from per­son to per­son through droplets and in con­tact with con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed sur­faces. The dis­ease is spread pri­mar­i­ly by peo­ple who al­ready show symp­toms. Cur­rent in­for­ma­tion sug­gests that a sin­gle in­fect­ed per­son can in­fect be­tween 1 to 4 close con­tacts.

PA­HO en­cour­ages every­one to adopt the fol­low­ing sim­ple pre­cau­tions to pre­vent res­pi­ra­to­ry ill­ness, in­clud­ing Covid-19:

• Wash your hands fre­quent­ly with soap and wa­ter or use an al­co­hol-based san­i­tiz­ing gel.

• When cough­ing or sneez­ing, cov­er your mouth and nose with your flexed el­bow or with a tis­sue; dis­pose of the tis­sue im­me­di­ate­ly and wash your hands.

• Avoid close con­tact with any­one who has cough­ing and fever.


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