First cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Malta, March 7. Risk to public remains low. Use basic health precautions.

Severity: Informational Alert

This alert began 08 Mar 2020 12:01 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 Mar 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
  • Location(s): Valletta (map)
  • Period: March 2020
  • Cases: 3

Summary
Government officials confirmed the first cases of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Malta March 7. The patient, a 12-year-old girl, had returned from Italy with her family March 3. On their return the family self-quarantined at home. The patient developed symptoms March 5, was tested March 6, and the diagnosis confirmed March 7. The patient's parents also tested positive for COVID-19 March 7, bringing the confirmed total case count in Malta to three. Authorities have subsequently moved the family into isolation at Mater Dei Hospital.

As of March 8, authorities have carried out tests on 181 people who returned to the country after traveling to COVID-19 affected areas. Bar the three aforementioned family members, all tests have been negative.

Background and Analysis
Additional cases may be identified in the coming days and weeks as elevated disease surveillance continues. 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.

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

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