Health officials in hazmat suits check body temperatures of passengers arriving from the city of Wuhan, China, on Wednesday. – Photo: AP

Local public health officials are closely monitoring a newly identified strain of coronavirus, which has claimed the lives of 17 people in China.

The virus, which is a new strain of the coronavirus known as 2019-nCoV, or novel coronavirus, was first detected in Wuhan, China. It is the first time this strain has been found in humans.

According to Chinese state media, since the virus was first flagged on 31 Dec. 2019, 17 people have died in China from the infection. Wuhan authorities have confirmed 444 cases, which brings China’s national total to more than 500. Cases have also been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea. On Tuesday, the United States reported its first case.

The Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization have issued alerts on the virus.

Cayman’s Medical Officer of Health Samuel Williams-Rodriguez said that while there have been no local reports of the coronavirus in Cayman, the public health department is monitoring the situation.

“At the advice of the Pan American Health Organization, we continue to strengthen our surveillance efforts to detect patients with acute respiratory disease and to ensure all health care professionals are up to date with guidance on infection and prevention control, and standard recommendations to prevent infection spread of the disease,” he added.

Williams-Rodriguez said travellers returning from countries with reported cases should contact a doctor as soon as possible if they develop breathing difficulties that are unexplained by any other illness or virus.

“At the moment, there is no vaccine available and treatment is supportive care based on the patient’s symptoms,” the statement added.

PAHO has not advised special screening for virus at points of entry nor recommended any travel or trade restrictions.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now