There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the CNMI as of Tuesday February 18, 2020 at 12:30PM
The novel coronavirus has been given a name by the World Health Organization: COVID-19.
Update from February 10, 2020:
The CHCC would like to inform the general public that, after consultation with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CHCC is submitting a specimen for novel coronavirus COVID-19 testing to the CDC laboratory in Atlanta, GA. While the patient does not meet the full CDC case definition of a COVID-19 person under investigation (PUI), and is considered a suspect of low priority, the CHCC is taking a precautionary stance in order to protect the CNMI community. This does not mean that the CNMI has a confirmed case.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was first identified in Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of China in December 2019. There have been thousands of cases reported in Wuhan and other areas in China, and cases are being reported internationally including in the mainland US. Over 1,000 deaths have occurred, mostly in China.
Globally, reported illnesses in people with COVID-19 have ranged from mild (no or few signs and symptoms), to severe, including death. These findings are consistent with other coronaviruses, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Additional information about COVID-19 is needed to better understand transmission, disease severity, and risk to the general population.
Common symptoms of COVID-19:
If you or anyone you know has traveled to Wuhan or anywhere else in mainland China, or have been in close contact with an infected individual from any of these areas, and feel sick with these symptoms, please seek medical attention. Before you go to the doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. You can call the CHCC at (670)234-8950 and ask for the surveillance unit.
How can I protect myself?
- Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
Most often, spread from person-to-person happens among close contacts (about 6 feet). Person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It’s currently unclear if a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus and through personal hygiene measures:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
According to interim guidance from the WHO on the use of masks in the community, released on January 29, there is no evidence that wearing a mask is a useful precaution to protect non-sick people. In fact, the WHO cautions that wearing a mask can give you a false sense of security and cause you to neglect other essential measures such as hand hygiene. Wearing a mask may be helpful only if combined with other steps to protect against illness.
Additionally, wearing a mask if you are having symptoms may be helpful, because the mask provides an additional layer of protection against coughing and sneezing, similar to how a tissue would be used. It is important that proper mask hygiene and disposal practices are followed.
Ongoing Preparedness Measures in the CNMI:
- Following a proclamation by the President of the United States on January 31, 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued restrictions on flights carrying passengers from mainland China. US citizens who traveled to China within 14 days of their arrival in the US will be directed to one of several airports with advanced public health screening capabilities. They will also be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine, either in a health facility or in home quarantine depending on where they traveled in China. Generally, foreign nationals (other than immediate family of US citizens, permanent residents, and flight crew) who have traveled in China within 14 days of their arrival will be denied entry into the United States. These restrictions do apply to the CNMI, according to a press release out of the Commonwealth Ports Authority (CPA) on February 3, 2020.
- The CHCC Public Health and Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program (PHEP) surveillance unit is working with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), the Commonwealth Ports Authority (CPA), the Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA), and other agencies on conducting screening of incoming passengers from outbreak areas.
- Protocols have been established around transportation, isolation, and care of a suspected case of COVID-19, should such a case present in the CNMI.
For more information, please contact the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation (CHCC) Public Health and Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program (PHEP) surveillance unit at (670)234-8950