Panama’s Minister of Health, Rosario Turner, confirmed the first coronavirus (COVID-19)-related fatality in the country on Tuesday, March 10. According to Turner, the individual was a 64-year-old man who died on Sunday, March 8, from complications of diabetes and bacterial pneumonia. During a press conference on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health announced there are eight confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide and another 66 suspected cases that are being tested.
In response to the rising number of cases, the government has suspended classes in several parts of the country until April 7. Certain activities, such as sporting events, concerts, and fairs which bring together large crowds of people have also been suspended until April 7 as a precaution. Additional restrictions and containment measures may be implemented over the coming days and weeks. Enhanced screening measures for travelers arriving from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran also remain in place at ports of entry as of Tuesday.
Further international spread of COVID-19 is expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "very high" at the global level.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.