Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak: what is the level of preparedness of The Gambia’s Health Ministry?
By Ahmed Manjang, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia:
The other day I watched in awe the honourable minister of health, vehemently defending his presence at the protest march for proponents of President Barrow for 5-years, yes the minster was within his constitutional right to support the president to complete his five-year term as per our constitution, but I think the health minister should busy himself trying to build our broken healthcare system. I will suggest to Dr Samateh to lead another massive demonstration about the deplorable condition of our healthcare sector, as they say in the new Gambia, to whom much is given a lot more is expected.
In recent weeks there is a far significant development in the horizon, the outbreak of the new Coronvirus in Wuhan city, China that should make keep the minister off the street. What is the level of preparedness of our health ministry in dealing with the potential outbreak of this deadly virus? The bare minimum expected from the health ministry is to make a press release and update the citizens to allay their fears about the latest coronavirus outbreakwhich the Gambia could fell victim to.
As the world eagerly awaits the arrival of 2020, our collective euphoria was rudely dampened by disturbing medical emergency development in Wuhan City in China. On December 31st, 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China reported a cluster of pneumonia-like cases of unknown aetiology, with a commonly published link to Wuhan's Huanan Wet Wholesale Market (wholesale fish, live animal and different animal species market). On 9th of January 2020, China Centre for Disease Control (CDC)reported that a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) had been identified as the causative agent of the Wuhan outbreak and the genome sequence was made publicly available.
Genome sequence analysis showed that the newly-identified virus is a cousin to the SARS-CoV clade. Molecular detection systems have been developed and are available for the Member States through the WHO and the European Virus Archive global catalogue. As of today 24th ofJanuary 2020, a total of 830 laboratory-confirmed cases infected with 2019-nCoV have been reported, 291 from Wuhan, China and four travel-associated from Thailand (2), Japan (1) and South Korea (1). Twenty-six deaths have been reported among the cases. Chinese health authorities have confirmed human-to-human transmission and 15 healthcare workers are said to have been infected in Wuhan. The zoonitic source of the outbreak remains unknown and therefore further cases and deaths are expected in Wuhan and broader China. New incidents may also be detected among travellers from Wuhan to other countries, with the increasing presence of Chinese in The Gambia, I am worried about the spread of this virus in my dear country. There are considerable uncertainties in assessing the risk of this event, due to lack of detailed epidemiological analyses.
But what is Coronavirus? Coronaviruses represent a large group of zoonotic viruses that are common among individual animals. In rare instances, the viruses can be transmitted from animals to humans. The common symptoms of coronavirus infections are similar to a common cold. Usually, the symptoms include but not limited to mild to moderate respiratory tract illness, runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a few days. For those with the suppressed or underdeveloped immune system, the elderly and the very young, there are chances the virus could cause a lower and much more severe and respiratory tract illness like bronchitis and pneumonia. So far the fatality rate for the new corona is 3% far more moderate than SARS which has a fatality rate of 10%.
With information so far currently available, the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) considers that:
I. the potential economic and social impact of2019-nCoV outbreaks is high;
II. the further global spread is likely;
III. there is presently a moderate likelihood of infection for travellers visiting Wuhan, however,already Scotland recorded confirmed cases from travellers from china;
IV. there is a high likelihood of case importation into countries with the most considerable volume of people travelling to and from Wuhan (i.e. states in Asia);
V. there is a moderate likelihood of detecting cases imported into EU/EEA countries;
VI. adherence to appropriate infection prevention and control practices, particularly in healthcare settings in EU/EEA countries with direct links to Wuhan, means that the likelihood of a case reported in the EU resulting in secondary cases within the EU/EEA is low
VII. the biggest challenge is that when the virus is spread to low-income countries like ours with the underdeveloped healthcare system.
In the past three years, there is an increasing presence of Chinese nationals in the Gambia, and this is vividly noticeable if one travels through Morocco with Air Maroc, the number of Chinese is significant.
The Gambia health ministry should, therefore, put mechanisms in place if they are not already in place at our ports of entries to make sure travellers from China and the Far Eastern countries are properly screen before they enter the country. The ministry should also employ the services of the media houses to sensitise the general public.
Ahmed Manjang, Senior Medical Technologist/Researcher, King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Ahmed Manjang is a Senior Medical Technologist at King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
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