Officials at the Najaf Health Department announced the first case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iraq on Monday, February 24. The individual had traveled to the province from Iran, and is receiving treatment in isolation. Health officials are also testing the individual’s close contacts for the virus. Further spread of COVID-19 is considered a realistic possibility in the coming days and weeks.
On Sunday, February 23, the Border Ports Authority extended the ban on the entry of non-Iraqi nationals from Iran to Iraq for a further 15 days, expiring on Monday, March 9. While Iraqi nationals are expected to be allowed to re-enter Iraq from Iran, authorities have said that stringent health screenings and measures will be in place upon arrival. Authorities also prohibited the travel of Iraqi nationals to Iran during this period. Some commercial disruptions are expected in the near term after government officials closed all border crossings with Iran on Thursday, February 20.
Further international spread of the COVID-19 virus is probable 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 more than 30 countries and territories worldwide. Virus screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
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.
Individuals in Iraq are advised to monitor the situation, anticipate further transportation disruptions, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
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 who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.