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Bermuda braces for coronavirus

People were warned to avoid the hospital's emergency room unless it was a genuine health crisis as the island prepared itself for potential cases of a killer virus.

Michael Ashton, the Bermuda Hospitals Board chief of medicine and infectious diseases specialist, said the plea to keep away from the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital's emergency room was issued because of the threat from a new strain of coronavirus from China that has killed more than 100 people and has spread to 16 countries.

Dr Ashton added: “We are closely monitoring this novel coronavirus and continue to work closely with Government.

“BHB has detailed plans for dealing with outbreaks and epidemics and we swiftly reviewed our admissions processes as a precaution. We would ask that people only come to the hospital emergency department if they truly have an emergency situation.”

Dr Ashton told the public: “If you are concerned that you may be infected, please call your family doctor or the emergency department before you arrive, as people in the same waiting area could be otherwise put at risk.”

The death toll for the killer bug was reported as 106 yesterday and the number of confirmed infections doubled in a day to more than 4,500.

The first case in Europe from human-to-human transmission of the virus was found in Germany.

The Ministry of Health said on Monday it had raised the threat level from the coronavirus from “guarded” to “elevated” and its epidemiology and surveillance unit was in a “state of heightened preparedness for a public health emergency”.

A ministry spokeswoman said yesterday that people who had travelled to areas that placed them “at some risk” from the virus, known as 2019-nCoV, would be assessed using World Health Organisation standards of care for patients with suspected coronavirus.

She added: “The Ministry of Health will not make public comments on these instances, however, when a situation arises that is a matter of public safety, information will be shared.”

A Bermuda Hospitals Board spokeswoman said: “BHB can confirm that even though the current threat to Bermuda residents is low, we are closely monitoring developments and are ready to respond should the threat increase.

“BHB has questions in its admission process that identifies anyone who has travelled to a place where there have been known infections and we are ensuring we have all necessary supplies.”

She added: “BHB has protocols in place as part of day-to-day running of the hospitals to minimise the spread of infectious diseases.

“Measures include negative pressure rooms in the emergency and the acute care wing units that are checked daily and infection prevention protocols such as using protective equipment and clothing. We also have plans in place that enable us to deal with outbreaks and epidemics that could be triggered if the mode of transmission changes and global infection rates continue to increase.”

The health ministry spokeswoman said the public should check for updates on the Government's epidemiology and surveillance unit website at https://www.gov.bm/health-data-and-monitoring

Medical precaution: Michael Ashton, BHB chief of medicine and infectious diseases

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Published January 29, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated January 29, 2020 at 10:32 am)

Bermuda braces for coronavirus

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