Severity: Informational Alert

Health: Central American countries identify COVID-19 cases during March, some with community transmission. Maintain basic health precautions.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Costa Rica
  • Honduras
  • Panama

This alert began 13 Mar 2020 02:44 GMT and is scheduled to expire 11 Apr 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: Imported cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), local transmission
  • Location(s): Select locations in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama (map)
  • Period: March 2020

Summary
Several Central American countries have identified imported cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Test results are pending in additional suspected cases, some of which will likely be confirmed. Additional cases and locations may be added to this list at any time as disease surveillance and testing continues. As of March 12, confirmed cases have been identified in the following countries:

Countries reporting community transmission:

  • Costa Rica: 22 cases primarily in San Jose, others in Alajuela, Guanacaste, and Heredia
  • Panama: 11 cases, location details not provided


Countries where community transmission has not been determined:

  • Honduras: 2 cases, one each in Atlantida and Francisco Morazan




Background and Analysis
Older individuals, infants, and those with chronic illness are more susceptible to infection and are at increased risk for severe complications. Human-to-human transmission can occur, though it remains unclear how easily the virus spreads between people.

On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. This shift in posture from an earlier briefing indicating the WHO would no longer use the term "pandemic" to describe disease transmission is reflective of the current COVID-19 global impact. Per the March 11 statement, "Describing the situation as pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn't change what WHO is doing, and it doesn't change what countries should do."

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions.

Advice
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
WHO advice for international travel

WHO coronavirus knowledge base

WHO: Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19

US CDC: Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers