Don’t panic, but be prepared

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With the first person-to-person transmission of the new coronavirus reported in the US, the World Health Organization on Thursday declared the virus outbreak a global health emergency.
The WHO has deemed the outbreak a public-health emergency of international concern, which points to an increase in the number of coronavirus cases. This indicates that global public-health authorities now consider the respiratory virus a significant threat beyond China, where it originated last month. The move could further heighten the global response to the outbreak.
Since the WHO declaration, China, other governments, and multinational businesses have taken emergency measures to limit the virus’s spread, including halting some travel to China.
At least 18 other countries or territories have also reported a small number of coronavirus cases. According to the WHO, Finland, India, and the Philippines have reported cases of people who traveled to Wuhan contracting the virus.
In Myanmar, a 56-year-old Chinese traveler was quarantined after landing at the Yangon International Airport yesterday on board a China Southern Airlines from Guangzhou, China as he showed some symptoms such as fever and sneezing. The traveler did not visit Wuhan recently and did not come in contact with anyone infected with the virus. He has been quarantined at the Waibargi Special Hospital as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, news about the outbreak is floating in the social media. In such a situation, it is very important for public health authorities in Myanmar to go heavy on preventive messages and measures before fake news and misinformation spread among the people and cause panic.
The authorities need to make sure that true and official information reaches the people in real time to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation.
Officials must ensure there are signages in appropriate places and that public places, schools and government offices are briefed and on the alert.
The health authorities are obliged to provide accurate and relevant information to the public in a timely manner, but clearly need to avoid creating panic, which can exacerbate a developing situation or create a problem outright where there isn’t one.
For individuals, the measures are the same as those recommended during flu season: washing hands frequently, coughing into one’s elbow, and staying home if one is sick.
Airport screenings, quarantines, and reduced travel into and out of China seem like prudent courses of action. All are measures currently in place. There’s no need to succumb to hysteria, but this is a situation that bears close monitoring.

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