BEIRUT: The newly identified pneumonia virus “2019-nCoV” (Coronavirus), which has emerged from a live animal market in China's central city of Wuhan back in December, has been spreading fast reaching a number of countries, including Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Vietnam, and Singapore.
The emergence of the mysterious Coronavirus has, to date, stricken nearly 1,300 people and killed 56 people in mainland China.
Over the vast geographic area, more than 20 other cases have been confirmed, including five in Hong Kong, two in the United States, three in France, and one in Australia.
Additionally, according to researchers at Northeastern University and Imperial College London, the number of cases may be five or 10 times higher than what has been reported.
The number of confirmed cases and deaths is increasing daily, urging all health officials to work on all fronts to put the necessary measures in place.
Countries all over the world started taking precautions after the virus’ outbreak. Dubai International Airport announced that all passengers arriving on direct flights from China will receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival. Saudi Arabia and airports in Africa have also begun screening arriving passengers.
Minister of Public Health Hamad Hassan, assured the public that "the ministry's epidemiological surveillance unit will deploy on the ground," adding that "the virus has not yet reached Lebanon."
Beirut's Rafic Hariri Airport issued a circular on Saturday, to all airlines and ground services requesting "all airlines which transport passengers from China, Thailand, and other countries to Lebanon, to fill out the incoming passengers' form and submit it to the Airport Quarantine Department indicating the traveler's phone number and address to facilitate contact."
During Hassan’s visit to Rafic Hariri International Airport on Sunday morning, the Minister said that the measures are taken in the Far Eastern countries and the lack of direct flight to Beirut helps in preventing any infection with the virus in Lebanon.
Hassan confirmed that the situation is under control and there is no need for panic, pointing out that there is no information of any Lebanese people in China infected with the Coronavirus and that the medical team at the airport is ready to receive passengers arriving from infected countries, who are required to fill out forms to collect accurate information about them.
Hassan also mentioned that Rafic Al-Hariri University Hospital is fully equipped and ready to deal with any case in Lebanon, as the patient will be isolated and provided with the necessary treatment.
Annahar reached out to the Director of Center for Infectious Diseases Research at the Faculty of Medicine at the American University of Beirut Dr. Ghassan Dbaibo to learn about the fast-spreading virus and how it could affect the Lebanese population.
“We are not more immune than countries such as the USA, France, or Saudi Arabia despite the fact that we don’t have a large Chinese immigrant population,” Dbaibo told Annahar.
Dbaibo explained that Lebanon can adopt several measures to curb the spread of the virus locally.
“The Ministry of Public Health can, in collaboration with WHO and local authorities, monitor incoming traffic from China as well as other countries with proven cases so that suspected cases can be identified and isolated early on," Dbaibo told Annahar, explaining that this collaboration can also include setting guidelines for physicians and hospitals.
Aside from the general measures that should be taken to protect the spread of the virus in the country, WHO recommends people to ensure hand and respiratory hygiene to reduce the risk of contracting the flu.
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