Coronavirus is serious threat to Pakistan, warns expert

Islamabad: There is no case of illness caused by 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) so far in Pakistan but it is a serious threat for Pakistan as air travel remains a major risk factor in its transmission to all parts of the world including Pakistan that is bordering China and having much transportation through road as well.

The threat is greater because of working on CPEC and thousands of our students studying in China and their movement from China to Pakistan may bring the infection here. Chances can not be ruled out that someone has already brought the infection to Pakistan.

In this situation, there is a need to take special measures like establishing Standard Isolation Units, ample supplies of Personal Protective Equipment and fully equipped Bio-safety level-III laboratories in all provinces of the country.

Epidemiologist Dr Muhammad Najeeb Durrani who is Member Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) expressed this while talking to ‘The News’ on steps being needed well in time to avert spread of illnesses associated with 2019-nCoV that has already claimed over 125 lives in China till Wednesday.

He added another step needed is exercising high level of vigilance through trained staff at all levels of air and dry ports and at outpatient departments of all major hospitals. Healthcare providers remain at high risk of contracting the disease being at the helm of affairs and they all must be trained in bio- safety measures and barrier nursing techniques, he said.

Dr. Durrani who has served as District Health Officer Islamabad and was asked by NIH to investigate a Pakistani person when he reached Pakistan, as a suspect of SARS some 17 years back said schools, barracks, dormitories, hostels and madrassahs need special training programs while the hospitals must establish separate OPDs and entry and exit points for suspected patients of illnesses associated with coronavirus.

He added there needs to be run public awareness campaigns and all required SOPs/basic principles of safety and patient handling must be displayed at public points particularly at bus and railway stations and airports. Children must be trained on what to do in case of appearance of the disease and media should play a positive role creating awareness without panic in case of the appearance of deadly virus, he said.

The most important protective measures are frequent hand washing, covering with face mask and avoiding gatherings, he said.

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