News that the newly discovered coronavirus that allegedly came from Wuhan, China, has now reached U.S. soil has elevated concerns about its potential entry into the CNMI and has prompted the local health department to screen all incoming passengers at the Saipan airport.
According to a Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. statement yesterday, it said that its preparedness staff at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport is working with Customs and Quarantine to screen incoming passengers.
The airport screening has two stages: First, a Customs official is provided a flight manifest for incoming flights, which identifies passengers and the places they had recently traveled to or from. Customs then informs personnel of the CHCC Public Health and Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program of incoming arrivals from affected areas, such as Wuhan.
PHEP surveillance staff then question these passengers about recent travel and any symptoms they may be experiencing. This information is used to determine whether the individual should seek further care.
If a potential case is identified, PHEP staff will notify the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to transport the patient to the Commonwealth Health Center.
“CHCC can then initiate protocols for a potential infectious disease case, ensuring that the patient can be treated and isolated in such a way that protects them, the staff, and other patients at the hospital,” the CHCC statement said.
As the virus continues to spread, CHCC has also been monitoring, through the World Health Organization, where the latest outbreaks are.
CHCC is also in constant contact with the Centers for Disease Control about the virus—now called 2019-nCoV—to discuss entry screening and to report suspected cases, if there are any.
According to a CDC release, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low at this time
Chinese health authorities have confirmed that the virus is a communicable disease, meaning humans can spread it to each other through the air and other means.
As of yesterday, cases of the new coronavirus have been reported in China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and the United States.
The virus has reportedly claimed nine lives, majority of which were elderly and had pre-existing conditions.
More than 440 cases of the virus have been confirmed across China, with the majority in Wuhan itself.
There has only been one reported case in the United States.