(GUYANA CHRONICLE) – THE Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA)’s Medical Microbiology Laboratory (CMML) is fully equipped and ready to test samples of suspected cases of the Coronavirus.
According to CARPHA, Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan, China.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, coughs, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
“The agency is equipped to investigate and manage communicable diseases. In the event of the suspicion of an outbreak in the region, member states have specific protocols to follow in their investigation process which includes sending the samples to CARPHA. We are prepared to receive and test samples of suspected cases of the 2019-nCoV with immediate effect,” said Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr. Joy St. John.
The reference laboratory is accredited by the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) to the international standard for medical laboratories, ISO 15189:2012.
Additionally, all laboratory technicians are certified to handle and transport infectious samples in accordance with the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s guidance on regulations for the transport of infectious substances, developed with the help of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
There are no direct commercial flights to the Caribbean from China, and travellers to the Region are screened multiple times prior to their arrival. However, the global situation is changing rapidly and CARPHA is monitoring to determine if sustained transmission of the disease occurs outside of China.
Head of CMML, Dr. Gabriel Gonzalez-Escobar, said all systems are in place, adding that CARPHA does not accept samples directly from the public.
“CARPHA will only receive and test samples from the national referral medical laboratories in member states. Results for all samples tested at the CMML will be sent electronically to the national referral medical laboratories, which it will then disseminate to the health care provider,” said Dr. Gonzales-Escobar.
He further stated that test results for the 2019-nCoV should be provided within 48 hours, but turnaround time is subject to receipt of a sample in a timely manner.
As the virus continues to plague China and other parts of the world, CARHPA is advising that good hygiene practices are important for the prevention of the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
While the risk of 2019-nCoV to the Region is currently low, CARPHA urged residents and visitors alike to practice basic protective measures against the new coronavirus. The agency recommended that persons maintain basic hand and respiratory hygiene, and avoid close contact, when possible, with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Additionally, persons are encouraged to frequently clean their hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub if hands are not visibly dirty; cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing; avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough; and seek medical attention early, if you experience fever, coughing or have difficulty breathing.