Four new cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) have been confirmed in the west of Ireland.
The two male and two female patients, who are from the same family, recently returned from northern Italy, which has experienced a surge in cases in recent times.
Two more confirmed cases have also been notified in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of cases on the island of Ireland to nine.
Contact tracing for all of these new cases is underway.
"There is still no evidence of widespread or sustained community transmission in Ireland, as seen in some other EU countries.
"While we now have six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Republic of Ireland, we continue our containment efforts, central to which is that the public know what to do in the event they have symptoms," commented Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health.
Meanwhile, according to chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, each of the cases on the island of Ireland has been identified "and we are confident that the infection control arrangements around those cases can help to contain the spread of the infection in this country".
While he acknowledged that contact tracing is more difficult with a cluster of cases because there are "more potential contacts and more work for the public health doctors to do", he insisted that since the beginning of this health crisis, there has been "effective contact tracing".
"We are confident that even though the scale of the exercise is significant (in the west), that it will be successfully concluded by the public health team there," he said.
The four patients in the west are being cared for in isolation facilities in a hospital.
Earlier this week, the department changed its advice relating to travel to Italy. It is now recommending "the avoidance of non-essential travel" to the four affected provinces of northern Italy.
Previously, people were being warned to avoid 11 specific towns in northern Italy. Anyone who has planned to travel to Italy in the coming days is asked to check the Department of Foreign Affairs' website here.
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.
For more information on COVID-19, click here or here.
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