What measures does Norway have in place to prevent coronavirus spread?

What measures does Norway have in place to prevent coronavirus spread?
Rail passengers wearing protective masks in Milan, Italy. Photo: AFP
Norway has confirmed its first case of coronavirus but the country’s health authorities have already implemented measures to manage potential infections.

Norway's first case was confirmed on Wednesday evening.

The Norwegian Institute of Public health (Folkehelseinstituttet, NIPH) has set procedures in place which would seek to quickly to isolate persons identified as having the virus, VG writes on Monday.

The potential of the virus spreading to other European countries has increased following the outbreak in northern Italy in recent days, which has caused 7 deaths and a total of 229 cases confirmed by Monday evening.

The World Health Organization chief said Monday the world should be working harder to contain the spread of the deadly new coronavirus, and should be preparing for a “potential pandemic”.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that so far, the WHO does not consider the outbreak that has killed more than 2,600 people a pandemic, but said countries should be “doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic.”

NIPH is not currently recommending screening every individual who travels into the country, noting that this measure would not be fully effective because people carrying the virus will not test positive for it during the incubation period.

Neither is the Norwegian health authority quarantining everyone who has travelled to outbreak areas after they subsequently return or travel to Norway.

“That measure is a significant intervention into people’s freedom and earlier epidemics have shown quarantine upon arrival not to be particularly effective,” NIPH said according to VG’s report.

The health authority recommends ‘home quarantine’ for people who have been in close contacted with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

Local doctors’ surgeries and hospitals in Norway are required to contact a municipal consultant doctor if they suspect infection or have a patient with symptoms of the virus. The municipal doctor then contacts NIPH, which can carry out tests for the virus at its laboratory. Currently, all samples must be tested at the NIPH lab before any conclusions are made as to infection.

When a test is positive, the local consultant doctor and NIPH will work together to trace people who have been in contact with the infected individual over the last 14 days. Those people will then be asked to monitor themselves closely for symptoms. They will also be advised to ‘home-quarantine’ themselves. This includes staying away from work and school as well as public places including shops.

Persons suspected to have the virus can be isolated at home or admitted to hospital, depending on their condition. Oslo’s Ullevål Hospital has an isolation room which does not allow virus particles to leave the room via the air or ventilation systems.

If patients present at hospitals with suspected coronavirus, they must wait in separate rooms to other patients, NPIH notes. Healthcare staff will use protective clothing.

NPIH does not recommend face masks for healthy persons, but says that people who are sick can use the masks as a measure to help prevent spreading disease.

“Persons who are wearing face masks tend to touch their faces more often, which can increase the risk of contagion,” the authority told VG.

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