Bhutan’s Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country on Thursday, March 5. The case was identified in a tourist who arrived at Paro International Airport (PBH) from India on Monday, March 2, and later visited a medical facility after suffering from symptoms related to COVID-19. Upon confirming the virus, the individual was placed in isolation and health officials have begun contact tracing. At least eight other passengers from the flight have been quarantined and 90 people from contact tracing are being tested for the virus.
In response to the confirmed coronavirus case, the country has implemented quarantine measures to prevent further spread. Schools in Thimphu, Paro, and Punakha will close for two weeks from Friday, March 6, and all international conferences and seminar are also postponed. Temporary restrictions on tourists are also in effect for 14 days to allow for monitoring and the assessment on the infection. Additional restrictions are possible as the government assesses the situation over the next two weeks.
Further international spread of COVID-19 is to be expected over the coming days and weeks.
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.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their 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.