The T&TMA is urging citizens to take all necessary precautions to avoid spreading any viral illnesses, especially in light of the global threat around 2019-nCoV.

The Trinidad and Tobago Medical Association (T&TMA) will be hosting a clinical symposium on February 16, 2020, to sensitise members of the local medical fraternity about the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV.

In an official statement issued today, the Association shares all available information on the 2019-nCoV, and is urging citizens to take all necessary precautions to avoid spreading any viral illnesses, especially in light of the global threat around it.

Background to the virus

The T&TMA notes that in December 2019, symptoms of an acute respiratory illness (rapid onset new breathing problems) emerged amongst persons in Wuhan Province, China. Following this, public health investigations have identified the cause of the illness as a virus, which has been named the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

The Association explains that this 2019-nCoV belongs to the family of coronaviruses. Other coronaviruses include those which cause the common cold as well as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) of 2002/3 and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) of 2012.

Symptoms and complications

The early symptoms of 2019-nCoV infection include; fever, cough, muscle pains, fatigue, sputum production and headache; and are also the most common symptoms of many common viral illnesses.

More serious common complications of 2019-nCoV infection occur after the first week of illness and are related to the respiratory system (breathing problems), with the majority of patients showing evidence of pneumonia on imaging (like X-ray or CT scans).

The mortality (death rate) amongst those infected with 2019-nCoV infection was most recently estimated by the World Health Organisation to be 4%. Thankfully, this appears significantly less than during the SARS outbreak of 2002/3 (9.6% mortality) or the MERS outbreak of 2012 (34% mortality).

Those persons most at risk of severe illness with 2019-nCoV infection and most viral illnesses include the very young, the very old, those with pre-existing medical problems such as heart disease, chronic lung diseases like asthma or COPD (chronic bronchitis and emphysema), liver cirrhosis, chronic kidney diseases or those who are pregnant, on immune suppressing medications or immunocompromised.

Symptoms of a severe viral illness which may require medical attention include:

• difficulty breathing (other than nasal congestion),

• confusion (particularly in the elderly),

• listlessness (particularly in children),

• bleeding or dehydration from inability to get adequate nutrition.

The T&TMA advises that if you or anyone you know develops any of these symptoms during the course of any viral illness, particularly if any of the conditions mentioned above are present, seek medical assistance immediately. Persons with chronic lung illnesses particularly, should ensure to take their prescribed medications.

Treatment of this 2019-nCoV infection is mostly supportive and may require intensive care interventions in up to a third of patients. No specific treatment is yet known.

The majority of people with 2019-nCoV infection however are likely to have a mild to moderate illness with full recovery. Furthermore, many more persons will get other “common” viral illnesses than 2019-nCoV infection.

Carnival 2020

The Medical Association also tackles the issue of Carnival 2020. The medical body warns that as T&T approaches the Carnival season with the usual influx of visitors, it is expected that there will be an upsurge in the number of viral illnesses and most commonly respiratory illnesses. This 2019-nCoV like many other viral illnesses is spread from person to person and may be contagious even before symptoms appear.

Actions to take

The T&TMA says it is important that each person tries his best to prevent acquiring and spreading any viral illness. It advises implementing routine preventative precautions such as: handwashing, and covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing. It notes that such actions are effective at helping to prevent the spread of most viral illnesses, including 2019-nCoV infection.

The Association says persons should also avoid contact with anyone known to have been exposed to any confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV infection. It states that the flu vaccine (2019/2020) will not prevent 2019-nCoV infection, but it will protect against other common flu viruses.

Citizens also are advised to stay home and avoid spreading any viral illnesses, should they begin developing symptoms of such. Also, it is important to get plenty of fluids, eat nutritious foods and rest. Routine over the counter common cold medications may be used where appropriate. Citizens should also check in on any elderly relatives who may be living alone and become ill to help with their basic needs and care.

Story by NEWS DESK