Three others quarantined at hospital and their homes
Turning public fears into reality, authorities in Bangladesh have confirmed first three patients of Covid-19, a new strain of coronavirus that has killed over 3,600 people around the world.
The Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) on Sunday also confirmed that three other people, who were in close contact with the infected trio, have also been quarantined.
Disclosing the matter at a press briefing, IEDCR Director Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora said that two of the three infected — all aged between 20 and 35 — returned recently from different cities in Italy. One of them is a woman and the other two are men.
She said: “The trio are now undergoing treatment at a hospital, and for security reasons, we are not disclosing their identities and addresses at the moment. But they are in stable condition now.”
Meanwhile, in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the government on Sunday urged Bangladeshis returning from six countries — China, Italy, South Korea, Singapore, Iran and Thailand — to remain in self-quarantine for 14 days.
“Bangladeshis coming from these six countries have been urged to remain in self-isolation at their respective homes if they’ve no symptom of fever,” Mohammad Shahriar Sazzad, health officer at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, told reporters.
“But if anyone is found to have 100 degrees Fahrenheit during health check-up at airport, he/she will be kept at the quarantine centre at the Kuwait Maitree Hospital,” he added.
Passengers arriving from these countries are being screened through thermal scanners at the airport, Shahriar said, adding that they are provided with health declaration forms where they give health-related information.
Dr Meerjady said one of the two patients who returned from Italy, where Covid-19 has spread already, was infected before they arrived here.
“These two are from separate families. Following their arrival, they had gone to their homes. Afterwards, they called our hotlines when they started showing symptoms. Later, they tested positive for Covid-19.
“Then we tested four people who came into contact with them, and that’s how we found the third patient, a female family member of one of the returnees,” the IEDCR director said.
Two of the four others were put in quarantine at a hospital and the others in self quarantine at their homes, she added, but declined to disclose their addresses or where they were undergoing treatment.
“The three infected with coronavirus are now getting treatment based on their symptoms. They will be in isolation until they test negative twice consecutively,” Dr Meerjady said.
She also urged the mass media and social media users not to identify the patients and their families to avoid harassment.
So far, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 107,000 people have been affected by coronavirus in at least 94 countries around the world, since the strain spread from China’s Wuhan city at the end of December last year.
No need to panic
Addressing the general people, Dr Meerjady on Sunday also said that there was no need to panic right now as they have already taken all necessary measures, and the government hopes to keep the situation under control.
“It is not the time to say that the virus will spread across the country, and so, there is no need to shut down schools and colleges at the moment,” she stressed, while responding to questions from reporters.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also urged the people not to be worried over coronavirus as the country was capable enough to tackle this disease.
For the past few days, IEDCR has been emphasizing cautiousness and improvement of personal hygiene.
Dr Meerjady on Sunday urged the people to avoid public gatherings and suggested to mostly stay at home, if possible, and follow the precautionary measures given earlier by WHO.
She said that they have also taken several precautionary steps as part of measures to tackle the virus, which include forming isolated wards in public and private hospitals around the country.
She said they do not think there will be an outbreak in the country, but they have asked all officials concerned in every level, including the civil surgeon in every district, to stay prepared.
On March 4, the government had restricted entry of people from four countries — Italy, South Korea, Japan, and Kuwait — without the virus-free medical certificates.
At the same day, IEDCR in a press release said that the Health Ministry and other ministries concerned have formed a national level committee to tackle the emerging situation.
In case of suspicion…
A Press Information Department (PID) handout issued on Sunday evening also asked people not to panic, but remain careful to stay safe from coronavirus as it has entered the country.
It advised people to consult physicians if they show any symptoms of coronavirus, such as fever, throat-ache, dry cough, and breathing complications.
The PID handout also urged people to use mask in crowded places, avoid the contact of pets, keep their houses clean, wash their hands after going home from outside and take boiled foods.
For any suspected case of coronavirus, people have been advised to contact the Directorate General of Health Services control room through hotline numbers — 01937110011, 01937000911, 01927711784, 01927711785.
Dr Meerjady told Sunday’s press briefing that two things were mandatory to tackle the situation — first, isolation of patients and bringing them to facilities where they can get treatment, and second, screening of people who have been in contact with the patients and keeping them quarantined.
She urged people to contact them if they feel like they were showing any of the symptoms. “Those who have arrived from abroad should stay in quarantine on their own responsibility.”
In the last 24 hours, they had tested 10 people, she added.
Since January 21, a total of 511,660 incoming passengers have been screened at land, sea, and airports across Bangladesh.
The outbreak began in Wuhan, a major transportation hub as well as central China’s main industrial and commercial centre, and has now spread to other major population centres, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and many other countries around the world.
There is no known cure for the virus. However, different institutions in China and other countries, including the US, are working on coming up with a vaccine for the virus.
Chinese authorities are still investigating the origins of the virus, though they confirmed the outbreak began at a market in Wuhan with illegal wildlife transactions, and that it can spread from one person to another via respiratory transmission.
Airports globally stepped up screening passengers from China, and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) said in a risk assessment that further global spread of the virus was likely.
People infected with the novel coronavirus usually shows a number symptoms, which include fever, difficulty in breathing and cough, similar to many other respiratory illnesses, and can cause pneumonia, and kidney failure.
How to protect yourself
WHO's standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows, which include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:
● Cleaning hands frequently by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
● When coughing and sneezing, one has to cover one's mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue. After the use of tissue, it has to be thrown away immediately into a closed bin and one has to wash hands
● Avoiding close contact with anyone who has fever and cough
● If a person has fever, cough and breathing difficulty, he/she has to seek medical care as soon as possible and share previous travel history with the health care provider
● When visiting markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, one has to avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals
● The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
Tanjir Rahman contributed to this report