The first case of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the Republic of Ireland has been confirmed.
A male patient in the east of the country, who recently travelled from an affected area in northern Italy, "is currently receiving appropriate medical care", according to the Department of Health.
It has now also been confirmed that as a result of this case, a secondary school in north Dublin is to close for 14 days from March 2. According to the department, all teachers and pupils at the school "are being treated as close contacts of the confirmed case".
All pupils and teachers are being asked to restrict their movements until the end of the incubation period "and will receive guidance on the meaning of restricted movements". Public health doctors will actively follow-up with all students and teachers on a daily basis over the coming 14 days, the department noted.
Last week, the first case of the virus on the island of Ireland was identified in Northern Ireland.
"This is not unexpected. We have been preparing for this eventuality for many weeks now. Public health protocols have been in place since January and are operating effectively. The health service is well used to managing infectious diseases and has robust response measures in place," insisted the department's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan.
The director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), Dr John Cuddihy, said that the HSE "is now working rapidly to identify any contacts the patient may have had".
However, he emphasised that the risk of transmission through casual contact is "low".
Responding to the news, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said he had informed the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.
Covid-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person's body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing), or by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.
It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of the virus to show. These may include a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties and fever (high temperature).
COVID-19 can also cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia and severe breathing difficulties.
Anyone who has been to an affected region (mainland China, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Iran and northern Italy) in the last 14 days AND is experiencing symptoms, should self-isolate and call their GP.
Anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days AND is experiencing symptoms should immediately self-isolate and call their GP.
In an effort to stop the spread of the illness, people are recommended to wash their hands properly and regularly with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, and cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they cough and sneeze. If no tissue is available, cough into your elbow, not your hands.
Over 82,000 people have been infected with the virus, which first emerged in the Wuhan region of China in late 2019, while over 2,800 people have died from the illness. For more information on COVID-19, click here or here.
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