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On Monday, the Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the kingdom after a Bahraini citizen arriving from Iran was suspected of having contracted the virus, based on emerging symptoms.
The patient was transferred to Ebrahim Khalil Kanoo Medical Centre for immediate testing, treatment and isolation under the supervision of a specialised medical team. The ministry has undertaken necessary medical measures to monitor all individuals who had been in contact with the patient, referring them to isolation if necessary.
The ministry is taking further preventive measures to ensure the virus is contained, including turning Muharraq Geriatric Hospital into a quarantine zone and monitoring the health of individuals arriving from infected countries for a period of 14 days, in line with international standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The ministry calls upon all citizens and residents who are experiencing symptoms of COVID19, including a fever, coughing and difficulty breathing, or those who have travelled to one of the countries infected with the disease or have interacted with a person travelling from any of those locations, or interacted with an infected patient, to isolate themselves, call 444, and follow the instructions given by the medical team, and avoid close contact with others,” the ministry said.
Regionally, Iran has had the highest number of confirmed cases, with the Iranian health ministry saying on Sunday that there are 43 cases and eight deaths in the country. International media in the country put the death toll at 18, citing unnamed sources.
According to The National, Kuwait also announced its first three confirmed cases on Monday, including one Saudi national. UAE has confirmed 13 cases as of Monday night.
Also as of Monday, 2,445 people have died internationally from the virus that emerged in China’s Hubei province in December. Recent research suggesting that the virus is more contagious than previously thought has added to international alarm over the outbreak.
On January 30, the WHO director general declared the outbreak of the coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), based on the advice of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (2005). Following that determination, the WHO did not recommend any travel or trade restrictions, based on the current information available.
Last Friday, Bahrain’s foreign ministry, in coordination with the Health and Interior ministries, announced a ban on entry of foreigners who have visited Iran, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea within 14 days of their arrival in the kingdom.
Citizens and residents, as well as GCC nationals who have visited these countries will be subject to quarantine and enhanced testing procedures, as recommended by the WHO.
According to American Mission Hospital (AMH), for all potential cases that fit into case definition, provision has been made to quickly recognise, isolate and implement appropriate infection control and prevention measures as per WHO and National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) guidelines.
Patients will be isolated in the negative pressure room, with minimal access to public. All healthcare workers at AMH have been briefed on the contingency plan that is in place as per NHRA guidelines.
In line with WHO and NHRA guidelines, AMH recommends the following precautions to reduce the risk of contracting the infection.
l Try and avoid contact with people with fever and cough.
l Regular hand washing with soap and water/alcohol based sanitisers.
l Clean and disinfect frequently used objects and surfaces with recommended disinfectants.
l Cover mouth with tissue while coughing and sneezing. Make sure to dispose tissues properly.
Countries with high numbers of confirmed cases as well as airports have seen an uptick in the use of face masks to prevent transmission of the virus.
Dr Edwin Ratnaraj, service line head of internal medicine at the AMH, adds: “Using a face mask does limit spread of various respiratory infections, but does not guarantee any prevention. Face masks along with staying away from infected persons, following proper hand and respiratory hygiene does help prevent spread of infection. The N-95 mask provides better protection against air borne respiratory pathogens.”
The WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers. In case of symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travel, travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider.