Namibia on high alert

Namibia's public and private health facilities have been alerted to upscale their surveillance for the deadly coronavirus that emanated from a food market in Wuhan, China.

30 January 2020 | Health

The isolation ward at Windhoek Central Hospital is on standby for potential coronavirus cases following news that the disease has reached the African continent.

Health ministry executive director Ben Nangombe confirmed on Tuesday that visitors to Namibia are now being screened at all points of entry, particularly Hosea Kutako International Airport.

“Visitors are also required to fill in a form informing us of their recent travel history,” he said.

The incubation period of the virus – the period between infection and symptoms - is 14 days. “We have alerted our public and private facilities to upscale their surveillance,” he told Namibian Sun.

A Kenya Airways passenger who arrived in Nairobi on Tuesday afternoon on a flight from Guangzhou displaying flu-like symptoms is the first suspected case of the coronavirus in East Africa.

The patient is currently being quarantined at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

The BBC also reported that Ethiopia had quarantined four people over coronavirus fears. Three of them were reportedly students who had travelled back from various universities near the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

It was reported earlier this week that the Namibian health ministry had instructed public and private health facilities countrywide to strengthen detection, diagnosis and surveillance so that possible coronavirus cases can be identified.

This is after the World Health Organisation (WHO) called on countries to strengthen their prevention and control measures.

In response to the WHO's call for strengthened measures, Namibia's health ministry said in a statement on Friday that it had sent alerts to all the country's regions, including general information on the virus as well as guidance on case management and surveillance.

“Health facilities, both public and private, as well as laboratories, are informed to strengthen case detection, diagnosis, and the management of all possible cases,” the ministry said. Close monitoring with intensified surveillance is underway, Nampa also reported, especially at the main international points of entry to ensure prompt case detection and response.

The ministry further advised the public to regularly wash their hands with soap and water and to cover their mouths and noses with a tissue or cloth when coughing or sneezing.

Travellers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette and limit contact with others.

The ministry said further that food such as meat, poultry, seafood and eggs should be cooked properly and close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, such as coughing and sneezing, should be avoided.

The statement said people should seek immediate treatment if infection is suspected, especially in cases involving a travel history to China in the past 14 days or contact with a person from China who is reported to be infected with the virus.

The outbreak has been linked to a market selling chickens, bats, marmots, other wild animals and seafood, which has been closed since 1 January for cleaning.

The virus is spread mainly from an infected person to others though respiratory secretions, the health ministry said.

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