GPs told to 'isolate' any possible case of killer bug

The risk to Ireland and the UK remains low but health officials have warned that there is an ongoing threat (stock photo)

Eilish O'Regan

IRISH GPs have been warned to isolate any patient suspected of having the new killer coronavirus in a "side room" in a bid to stop them infecting others.

The family doctors should put on gloves, a long-sleeved gown or plastic apron, as well as a face shield or goggles.

The patient should also be offered a surgical mask before alerting the nearest hospital and ambulance service.

The dramatic instructions come from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre disease watchdog.

They form part of new guidelines issued to doctors who may be presented with a patient suffering symptoms of fever, shortness or breath or sore throat and who may have been in Wuhan, China - the centre of the coronavirus outbreak - in the previous 14 days.

It comes amid concerns that the contagious illness could make its way to Ireland.

France yesterday announced two confirmed cases of the virus from China, the first reported in Europe, and the country's health minister said new cases were likely to follow.

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said both of the sickened people had travelled to China. They were hospitalised, in isolation, one in Paris, the other in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

In part because of Europe's open borders, the minister said she expects more cases.

"We see how difficult it is in today's world to close the frontiers. In reality, it's not possible," she said. "We have two cases. We will probably have other cases."

Scientists have revealed each infected person is passing the virus on to between 1.4 and 2.5 people. The National Virus Laboratory in UCD has yet to be asked to carry out a test on a suspected case here. This would involve analysing a swab taken from the back of the throat or from the nose with a cotton bud.

People who feel they may be at risk and are unwell are asked to contact a doctor by phone in advance.


Medics at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast were relieved yesterday after they concluded a man tested for the virus was almost certainly clear - pending official results from the test for the disease, which takes about 24 hours.

All 14 people tested for coronavirus in the UK have been given the all-clear but checks are ongoing on other people.

The risk to Ireland and the UK remains low but health officials have warned that there is an ongoing threat.

Once a person has caught the virus, it may take between two and 14 days for symptoms to show.

The vast majority of patients - at least 97pc based on available data - will recover from these without any issues or medical help. In a small group of patients - primarily those who are elderly, or those with long-term illnesses - it can lead to pneumonia.

The official death toll in China has now risen to 26, with more than 830 confirmed cases.