CNMI health officials and airport authorities will be meeting today to discuss more on the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in South Korea, according to Public Health and Hospital Preparedness Program director Warren Villagomez.
He said as of now implementation of precautionary measures are still ongoing and not a lot has been set in stone yet. The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has so far been prepping up measures at the hospital and is in constant contact with key stakeholders in addressing MERS.
“What we’re doing is we are going to be meeting tomorrow with airport authorities and stakeholders, including airlines and we’ve given our MERS response awareness reorganization messaging posters to the airport and these will be posted up at the airport for all incoming passengers,” Villagomez said.
Villagomez also noted that the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention health alert monitors should be up at the airport to bring a higher level of awareness in regards to any infectious diseases.
CDC recently equipped the airport with five television sets, called travel alert monitors, which are for public health awareness and for other evolving diseases that could be a potential threat to the CNMI.
Villagomez said that they have developed and took extra effort in coming up with a questionnaire for incoming passengers from Korea. Questions include whether the passenger visited health facilities in Korea for the last 14 days.
“That is the reason why we’re [coordinating] with the Commonwealth Ports Authority and U.S Customs and Border Patrol,” he said.
An isolation room, called the negative pressure isolation room, is currently in place at the hospital and is ready to be used in case a MERS case is identified in the CNMI. An outside isolation and quarantine identified area is also on standby .
“All the coordination we’re doing is going well and we are in constant communication with CDC Hawaii epidemiologists Dr. Tai Ho Chen and updates from him as well as the CDC epidemiologists from Guam and we are in close coordination with our medical staff at the hospital,” Villagomez said.
CHCC urges travelers to protect themselves when travelling abroad to countries that have potentially identified MERS or has MERS, which includes Middle East and South Korea.
Symptoms of MERS are fever, cough, and short of breath. Some have also experienced gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhea and nausea/vomiting. For many people, according to CDC, more severe complications followed such as pneumonia and kidney failure.