Bangladesh must stay fully alert to coronavirus: expert

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2020-01-25 23:51:17 BdST

Health workers in protective suits check the condition of a passenger on an airplane that just landed from Changsha, a city in a province neighbouring the centre of coronavirus outbreak Hubei province, in Shanghai, China January 25, 2020. Reuters

Bangladesh must stay alert and do whatever it takes to prevent the spread of coronavirus from China, an expert has said.

Like many other countries, Bangladesh is highly connected to China for trade and other reasons.

“We must be on maximum alert. And the people should take it seriously. It’s a matter that cannot be neglected. We must prepare ourselves assuming that the virus is going to hit Bangladesh within a month,” said Mushtuq Husain, a former chief scientific officer at the government’s disease control centre.

But Meerjady Sabrina Flora, a director at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research or IEDCR, said Bangladesh has no reason to panic.

“But it’s necessary to stay prepared. Different countries have reported coronavirus cases,” she said, adding that the authorities in local hospitals were preparing separate wards so that any infected patient can be quarantined immediately after detection. 

With more than 1,400 people infected worldwide, mostly in China, Hong Kong declared a virus emergency, scrapped celebrations and restricted links to mainland China.

Australia confirmed its first four cases on Saturday, Malaysia confirmed three and France reported Europe's first cases on Friday, as health authorities around the world scrambled to prevent a pandemic.

The United States is arranging a charter flight on Sunday to bring its citizens and diplomats back from Wuhan, the central Chinese city that is the epicentre of the outbreak, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The death toll in China has risen to 41, authorities reported on Saturday, from 26 a day earlier. As of 6pm local time (1000 GMT), 1,372 people in China have been infected with the virus traced to a seafood market in Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife.

The virus has also been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Pakistan and the United States.

A woman with mask passes by thermal screening point at international arrival terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Jan 21, 2020. REUTERS

A woman with mask passes by thermal screening point at international arrival terminal of Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Jan 21, 2020. REUTERS

Flora said the Bangladesh authorities screened a total of 900 travellers from China for coronavirus at the airports until Thursday.

Nine people, mostly travellers from China, came to the IEDCR to report the suspicion of coronavirus infection but none was found infected, she said.

Husain, however, thinks screening travellers at airports is not enough because some countries reported coronavirus cases even weeks after the infected people’s arrival from China without any symptom.

“A coronavirus patient can get fever anytime within 14 days from infection. The travellers from China must report to the IEDCR if they have a fever a few days after arrival,” he said.

Husain also said patients with other diseases should maintain extra cleanliness. The deaths were reported in cases where the infected people were suffering from other diseases, he said.

The Bangladesh embassy in China was “in touch” with about 400 Bangladeshi students, who have been locked down along with millions in Wuhan, the foreign ministry said.

The embassy also established contact with the Chinese authorities to ensure urgent support for the expatriates in Wuhan, the ministry said in a statement.

“As of today, no news of any infection or death caused by coronavirus to any foreigners is reported.”   

The embassy has opened a hotline number: +86 178-0111-6005.