ISLAMABAD-Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) and National Institute of Health (NIH) on Wednesday alerted all provincial health departments and authorities at entry and exit points of the country to take preventive measures after emergence of Coronavirus in China.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) also expressed concerns over the outbreak of Coronavirus in China particularly in Wuhan (Hubei, province) after the fatal virus death toll in China rose to six and the number of cases jumped to almost 300.

Coronavirus is a serious disease like SARS and causes upper respiratory tract infection.

If the symptoms of the infection are not treated properly, this can lead to lower respiratory tract infection, laryngitis, bronchitis, lungs infection and finally pneumonia, which could become fatal for the patients.

PMA said that there is big number of Pakistani students and businessmen along with so many Chinese coming to Pakistan every day, so we are more at risk of getting Coronavirus through human contact.

It suggested government to install thermal scanners at international airports to scan the passengers arriving from high risk countries particularly from China, Bangkok and Thailand.

“If anybody is found with signs of fever, he/she should be quarantined for 24 hours for monitoring and prevention is the only way to keep us safe from the outbreak of this virus in Pakistan,” said PMA Secretary General Dr Qaiser Sajjad.

Suggesting the preventive measures he said people should take plenty of water, complete bed rest if suffering from respiratory virus, and use tissue papers to clean your nose.

He said people should ensure hand wash after contact with respiratory secretion and if one is suffering from cold or flu, do not hug or shake hand with others and do not share your paraphernalia like glass, plate, cup, towel, mobile, pen etc.

Antibiotic should not be used in any viral disease and people should get treatment only from qualified doctors while doctors should wash their hands after examining each patient.

NIH issued an advisory and alert to all provincial health departments and specially points of entry at all airports and ground crossing in Pakistan.

Advisory is to alert and sensitise the health staff in all over the country to remain vigilant about any suspected cases coming from affected areas of China for early detection of suspected cases of novel Coronavirus infection.

The Executive Director of National Institute of Health, Prof Maj Gen Aamer Ikram said that NIH activated Emergency Operations Centre on alert mode to monitor the international dynamics of disease and coordination with Central Health Establishment (CHE), WHO and Provincial Health Departments for national prevention and control.

He also directed virology lab to develop a real time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR) capacity for novel Coronavirus as early as possible. NIH has developed health education and information material for healthcare staff, passengers and general public as well. NIH held a meeting with all airport health officers at NIH on Wednesday and reviewed the steps taken by respective airports.

NIH will provide all possible support to the health staff working at airports and seaport, he added.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Dr Zafar Mirza said that an Emergency Operations Cell has been established in Ministry of National Health Services to monitor the situation round the clock.

He said the Directorate of the Ministry dealing with airport and port health services has been asked to maintain strict vigilance at points of entry and monitor travellers coming into the country from affected area. The Directorate has been advised to strengthen health desk and quarantine arrangements at the ports of entry, shared Dr Zafar Mirza. There are 41 incoming flights from China to Pakistan every week.

“I am writing to all chief ministers to ensure necessary arrangements are in place in all provinces, said Dr Zafar Mirza. I am also establishing contact with National Disaster Management Authority. We will be working closely with Embassy of China in Pakistan to deal with the situation,” he said.

He emphasised that there is no need to panic.