No one listed as having had immediate contact with a 61-year-old Bahamian woman with COVID-19 has so far shown any symptoms of the illness, according to Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen, who said yesterday her family and immediate contacts have been asked to self-quarantine.
“Having made contact with them, we are going about a testing and sampling exercise to find out whether any of those members of the family or close contacts have been infected with the coronavirus disease,” Brennen said.
“So, that activity is ongoing. At present, it doesn’t appear that there is anyone with current symptoms or severe symptoms.
“We are making sure that we continue to canvass even their contacts to find out if there is anyone else that has been found to have any issues. So, it’s an ongoing but very active exercise that is going on. And we’re trying as best as possible. We’re doing it with health care providers that she may have visited, other social contacts.
“It’s an extensive exercise that we’re going about doing this in order to ensure that we canvass as wide as possible to find out if there are other people out there that have the disease that we aren’t aware of so far and may even be without symptoms.”
Brennen also said the patient is in stable condition. Up to last night, she remained in isolation at Princess Margaret Hospital.
The first confirmed case of the virus in The Bahamas was announced on Sunday at a press conference at the Ministry of Health, where it was revealed that the patient has no recent travel history.
Brennen said officials have yet to determine how she contracted the virus.
“We are concerned that there’s community spread,” Brennen told The Nassau Guardian.
“And that’s why we’re so active in trying to find out who the patient had contact with, because if she had no travel, then that means someone somewhere within the community is out there who was infected or currently is infected and may have the potential to pass it on to others.
“So, it just escalates in our mind that we cannot rest on our laurels.
“[B]ut this gives us a target or at least a part of the concentric circle where we can now start going out in waves to make it bigger and bigger until we are able to capture all of those who may have been affected or you find that index patient who may have been the one to expose her.”
Brennen said the process is not an easy one.
“We are trying to ascertain who it is that she may have come into contact with that had been infected,” he said.
“The issue with that is that 80 percent of people who have the coronavirus are found to be either only having mild symptoms or may not even know that they have it. So, if we only look for people who have severe symptoms or have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, anything of that sort, then we’re going to miss the boat. So, we’re really trying to canvass as wide as possible in trying to figure out where this might have been.”
The novel coronavirus, which can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath and in severe cases pneumonia, originated in Wuhan, China, late last year.
Those over 60 and people with underlying health issues are believed to be most at risk for experiencing severe complications of the virus.
Brennen said yesterday the patient is so far responding well to treatment.
“The patient continues to be stable at this time,” he said.
“She is receiving supportive care in the hospital. So, she is getting fluids and if she has respiratory distress, she gets oxygen as required. So, she seems to be responding to that therapy and doing very well at the moment.”
Since being identified, the novel coronavirus has spread to all continents except Antarctica.
As of yesterday, there were over 181,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 110 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
At least 7,100 people have died from the virus globally.
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic last week. Shortly after, it announced that the epicenter of the pandemic is now Europe.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced in a national address that foreigners who have been in the UK or Europe in the past 20 days will not be allowed entry into The Bahamas. Bahamians who have recently visited the region will face quarantine upon entering The Bahamas.
There are over 3,800 confirmed cases in the United States and 68 deaths.