Coronavirus, an outbreak of pneumonia-like illness that was first reported in Wuhan, China is now spreading fast. And we need to be worried.

Bhutan has responded swiftly but we need to be still very careful and vigilant. We already have infrared fever scanning system at Paro International Airport. Surveillance at every point of entry should beefed up.

In the more interconnected world today, tackling disease outbreaks can be challenging. Increasingly, countries other than China have begun reporting new cases of coronavirus. As the Kuensel went to press last night, nine people had succumbed to the disease in China. Reports are sounding grimmer by the day.

As the knowledge about the disease grows, we now know that the disease can be transmitted from human-to-human. And we are yet to know a whole lot about the disease. That is dangerous. How countries and regions are responding to the disease can be helpful to Bhutan that is now receiving an increasing number of tourists from almost every part of the world.

All the health centres in the country, including the national referral hospital in Thimphu have been notified to strengthen and improve surveillance and report to the Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC). We are told that Bhutan has the capacity to handle the threat from the disease. But many people still do not know much about the disease.

Public awareness and education programmes should spread faster than the disease. This has not been very visible so far. More important, Bhutanese travellers should know where they are going, what are the risks, and what they can do to prevent themselves from getting infected.

In the face of such emerging health emergencies, depending on the findings and recommendations of the WHO Emergency Committee is perhaps the only thing we can do. What we can ill afford, however, is complacency.  We cannot just wait for advice from WHO. Strengthening internal capacity is the need of the hour.

With dramatic rise in the number of new disease cases, the countries world over now have begun to strengthen screening at the airports. But some health experts are of the view that despite rolling out of screening technology, the communities could still be vulnerable to the disease that is spreading rapidly.

In the meanwhile, simple health measures can go a long way in keeping the infection at bay. WHO has advised people to avoid “unprotected” contact with live animals, cook meat and eggs thoroughly, and to avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

If you experience respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, rush to the nearest health and medical centre, immediately.