The government has stepped up its efforts to detect and prevent the new strain of coronavirus, which causes a type of pneumonia, and has spread across China recently, killing six people and infecting about 300 people.
The government deployed health officers in two major airports — Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka and Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram.
‘We are closely monitoring the development and screening passengers coming from China,’ said principal scientific officer ASM Alamgir of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, the disease monitoring arm of the government.
All the hospitals across the country have been alerted and anyone recently visiting China and found with symptoms of pneumonia, cold, sneezing, coughing and fever have been requested to call the IEDCR hotlines or report to the nearest health facilities, he told New Age on Tuesday.
The IEDCR hotlines are: 01937000011, 01937110011, 01927711784, and 01927711785.
A large number of Bangladeshi and Chinese people visit the countries regularly and the possibility of infected passengers’ arrival cannot be ruled out, Alamgir said.
The virus, known also as 2019-nCoV, is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus that has not previously been identified in humans, said the virologist.
Signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, he said.
It is believed to have originated from infected animals at a seafood and wildlife market in Wuhan.
Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, but only six (the new one would make it seven) are known to infect people.
The World Health Organisation has advised people to avoid ‘unprotected’ contact with live animals, thoroughly cook meat and eggs, and avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.
The WHO will today consider declaring an international public health emergency over the virus — as it did with swine flu and Ebola.
Such a declaration, if made, will be seen as an urgent call for a coordinated international response.
BBC reported that China’s National Health Commission on Monday confirmed for the first time that the infection could be transmitted from human-to-human. It said two people in Guangdong province had been infected in this way.
In a separate statement, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said that at least 15 medical workers in Wuhan had also been infected with the virus, with one in a critical condition.
The workers presumably became infected with the virus due to contact with patients. All of them are being kept in isolation while being treated.
A total of 291 cases have now been reported across major cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai. However, most patients are in Wuhan, the central city of 11 million at the heart of the outbreak.
The disease was first identified there late last year and the outbreak is believed to be linked to a seafood market that also sells live animals.
A handful of cases have also been identified abroad: two in Thailand, one in Japan, one in South Korea and one in Taiwan. Those infected had recently returned from Wuhan.
Authorities in many places, including Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan have stepped up screening of air passengers from Wuhan.
The US authorities last week announced similar measures at airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
The outbreak has revived memories of the SARS virus — also a coronavirus originating in China — that killed 774 people in the early 2000s across several countries, mostly in Asia.
The New Age correspondent in Chattogram reported quoting Sarower-e-Zaman, manager of the Chattogram airport, that they had also issued alert and began the screening process.
He said that Chattogram does not have any direct flights to and from China but those who are arriving in the port city via Dubai or India from China are requested to consult doctors.
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