Practices have been urged to look out for patients travelling from countries affected by the new Covid-19 virus – amid concerns that the world is on the brink of a pandemic.
Covid-19 is an “serious and imminent” threat to the UK, the government reaffirmed yesterday as outbreaks in Italy and Iran took hold. In Iran a health minister was diagnosed with the virus shortly after being depicted at a press conference repeatedly mopping his brow.
In Italy four more deaths and 105 new cases were reported as restrictions were placed on the borders with some of its neighbours.
The Iranian outbreak caused concern as cases began to be diagnosed in neighbouring countries – raising fears of an epidemic in the Middle East. Iraq and Afghanistan reported their first cases of infection as did Oman and Bahrain, where there has been a cluster of eight cases. In Kuwait five new cases were reported while in Iran four new deaths and 18 new cases were reported.
In the UK, with no new cases reported, the Royal College of GPs said the threat remained “moderate” – but warned practices to watch for patients who have been to affected countries.
Chair Professor Martin Marshall said: “The most important thing is to keep it in perspective and not to be alarmed. Patients should not be alarmed as it is still more likely that anyone with flu-like symptoms will have the flu.
“However, we’d like to remind the public that any patient who has been to or has had contact with someone who has been to an affected area and has symptoms, including a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, should not go to the GP surgery or A&E department, but stay at home and call NHS 111. Affected countries are currently listed as China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and/or Macau in the last 14 days, and/or Northern Italy (north of but not including, Pisa, Florence and Rimini), Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and/or Myanmar since 19 February.
“If a patient who fits this criteria does arrive at a GP surgery practice staff should place them in isolation, where possible, and then current Public Health England guidelines should be followed.”