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January 26, 2020

Threat of pneumonia cases associated with novel coronavirus

Islamabad

January 26, 2020

Rawalpindi:Almost all public sector healthcare facilities including the three allied hospitals in town and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in the federal capital have been put on high alert and asked to remain vigilant to deal with any suspected case of pneumonia like illness caused by 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) named by Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) US, a virus of the family of Coronavirus.

On 9th January 2020, the virus was identified in Wuhan province of China with more than 200 confirmed human infections and at least two deaths while cases have also been reported in Thailand, Japan, and South Korea.

The situation urged the neighbouring countries including Pakistan to stay alert and sensitize healthcare staff for early detection of a suspected case due to possibility of an outbreak. The infection is zoonotic and primary causes of infections in human are through infected animals though the Chinese government has confirmed human to human transmission as secondary infections.

Holy Family Hospital, Benazir Bhutto Hospital and District Headquarters Hospital have been put on high alert and the concerned healthcare staff have been asked to give special attention to patients reaching hospitals with respiratory illness particularly in cases with unknown reason, said Head of Department of Infectious Diseases at Rawalpindi Medical University Professor Muhammad Mujeeb Khan while talking to ‘The News’ on Saturday.

He added it is a must for healthcare staff to follow precautionary measures to avoid incidence of the deadly infection that has incubation period of five days. The staff has been asked to use personal protective equipment including gloves, gown and standard mask in case of receiving any suspected case, he said.

He added the key symptoms of the disease include fever, cough, difficulty in breathing and pneumonia and chest radiographs of patients show invasive pneumonic infiltrates in both lungs.

According to an advisory issued by National Institute of Health - Pakistan (Field Epidemiology & Disease Surveillance Division), a person with severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) with history of fever and/or cough and/or difficulty in breathing and with history of travel to Wuhan or any other affected area of China within last 15 days prior to symptom onset should be suspected and investigated for illness associated with 2019 novel Coronavirus.

Dr. Mujeeb said the precautionary measures are much important as there is no vaccine available for the 2019-nCoV infection nor any specific treatment instead the patient can be given supportive medication generally like that of seasonal influenza.

He said the Punjab government has already taken up the issue and has asked the healthcare facilities at all levels to remain vigilant. Deputy Director at PIMS Dr. Waseem Ahmed Khawaja informed ‘The News’ on Saturday that the hospital administration has already worked out arrangements to deal with any suspected case of illness associated with 2019-nCov. The PIMS is on high alert enhancing its surveillance and vigilance to respond to any suspected case, he said.