Kerala in mission mode to prevent coronavirus outbreak

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on January 31, 2020

Those who travelled to China recently advised to stay away from public functions

Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja has requested all those who recently travelled to virus-stricken China to not only report themselves in but also keep away from weddings and other gatherings.

Self-reporting assumes paramount importance since the virus can spread within the body even before symptoms manifest themselves, she told newspersons in Thrissur on Friday.

'No lowering of guard'

Reiterating that there is no need for panic yet, she said that it does not allow Kerala the luxury to lower its guard in the efforts aimed at preventing the spread of the nCoronavirus.

The country's first identified case of the infection is being treated in an isolation ward at the Government Medical College in Thrissur. The minister said the condition of the patient, a female student from Wuhan University in China, was improving under strict supervision.

Shailaja expressed regret over some who had recently travelled to China not reporting themselves to the nearest hospitals. Some others have volunteered to do so in response to advice by the State government, she added.

The latter have been advised to mandatorily observe home quarantine for at least 28 days. Health professionals and volunteers are on call any time for assistance of any kind. Private hospitals in the State have been told to gear up to receive and treat potential cases of infection, she said.

On Friday morning, the patient was shifted from the District General Hospital in Thrissur to the Government Medical College there for better management.

Kerala on high alert

Leading a team of doctors and health officials, Shailaja had rushed on Thursday night to Thrissur. She was also accompanied by three other ministers in the Pinarayi Vijayan-led cabinet and elected from the district. They met local doctors and health officials for one-and-a-half hours initially.

The ministerial team was briefed on the treatment protocol being followed at the general hospital and given a status update on the facilities available for infection management and monitoring. A specially constituted medical board then examined the patient, and it was based on their recommendation she was shifted to the Government Medical College at the district headquarters. At least, 1,053 people are under observation across the State, of which 15 are being treated at isolation wards in the nearest hospitals. Their samples too have been sent to Pune and the results are awaited. The highest number of suspected cases in the State are from Kozhikode district (166), followed by Malappuram (154), Ernakulam (153), Kollam (100), and Thiruvananthapuram (18). The least number of cases have been reported from the hills-bound Wayanad (16) and Idukki (14). The Thrissur-based student had arrived in Kerala from China well before the travel restrictions were announced. But she reported in after developing initial symptoms.

WHO declares emergency

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared novel coronavirus a global public health emergency, according to agency reports.

“The main reason for this declaration is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” they quoted WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying. The concern is that it could spread to countries with weaker health systems.

The US has told its citizens not to travel to China. The State Department issued a level-four warning — having previously urged Americans to ‘reconsider travel to China’ — and said any citizens in China ‘should consider departing using commercial means’. At least 213 people have died in China, with almost 10,000 cases of the virus. The WHO said there had been 98 cases in 18 other countries, but no deaths.

“The WHO believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk,” an emergency committee set up by the WHO said. The WHO chief accepted the committee’s advice and issued Temporary Recommendations for China and other countries.

Published on January 31, 2020

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