Fifteen suspected cases of coronavirus have been tested for in Ireland, however there have been no confirmed cases here, the Department of Health has said.
According to the department's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, as of February 3, 15 suspected cases were tested in the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL).
He said that while there have been no confirmed cases here, "the event of a confirmed case in Ireland is possible, given the increase in cases we are seeing internationally".
However, he pointed out that Ireland has "comprehensive" public health and emergency plans in place "and is prepared for the event of a confirmed case, should one arise".
Meanwhile, according to Dr Cillian De Gascun, chairperson of the Coronoavirus Expert Advisory Group, which is a sub-group of the National Public Health Emergency Team, monitoring of the situation will continue.
"We have not seen sustained human-to-human transmission in any other country outside China, which is a positive indicator for our containment measures. We will continue to monitor the spread and evolution of the virus because there is still a lot to learn, and advise the National Public Health Emergency Team accordingly," he commented.
Dr Vida Hmilton, the national clinical advisor and group lead for acute hospitals with the HSE, said that the HSE has been working with frontline staff on this issue in recent weeks.
"Some 3,000 personal protection packs have been issued to GPs and clinics around the country and will be received in the coming days. All acute hospitals have multi-disciplinary coronavirus preparedness committees to oversee implementation of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre algorithms and actions," she explained.
She also pointed out that the critical care service has developed "management guidance for the care of any patients with the virus who should require their services and the National Ambulance Service is actively engaged in risk assessment and the co-ordinated response to case recognition and containment".
"Coronavirus is spread through contact and droplets, so good cough and sneeze hygiene, with regular hand washing, is the best way to keep well," Dr Hamilton added.
Good cough and sneeze hygiene helps to stop the spread of germs. People should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, and put the used tissue in a bin. If they do not have a tissue, they should cough or sneeze into their elbow or upper sleeve, not their hands.
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