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CUH was put on partial lockdown, with a complete ban on visitors. All outpatient appointments have been cancelled today.
CUH was put on partial lockdown, with a complete ban on visitors. All outpatient appointments have been cancelled today.
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Deadly virus in Cork; Patient spent days in emergency department before diagnosis 

A PATIENT diagnosed with coronavirus at Cork University Hospital had spent a number of days in the emergency department before the diagnosis was made.

The Cork man, aged in his 40s, became the first in the country to catch the infection through community transmission.

The circumstances of the diagnosis have sparked fears that staff or other patients could be infected.

MORE than 60 staff members at Cork University Hospital have been told to self isolate after over fears of an outbreak. Other patients at CUH are being assessed.

The patient had been taken to CUH by ambulance, complaining of pains in his head. He spent time in A&E before being discharged. He was readmitted in recent days and tested for the virus. The National Virus Reference Laboratory confirmed a positive test yesterday.

The patient was being cared for in an Intensive Care Unit last night.

Health experts were frantically trying to trace the origin of the infection and to put measures in place to contain the spread. Unlike previous cases in Ireland, the man, aged in his 40s, had not travelled to northern Italy.

Unlike the other Irish cases, the Cork man has no established link with anyone who has been in Northern Italy, which has seen a virus outbreak in recent weeks. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)
Unlike the other Irish cases, the Cork man has no established link with anyone who has been in Northern Italy, which has seen a virus outbreak in recent weeks.
(Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)
Until yesterday, health officials had been reassured that the virus was contained to people who had travelled abroad, but the Cork case raises the spectre of it spreading through the community.

It was one of seven cases diagnosed in Ireland yesterday, bringing the total to 13 cases.

Cork University Hospital management held emergency talks yesterday and began immediate measures to contain the virus.

Some patients were being swabbed before entering A&E last night.

CUH was put on partial lockdown, with a complete ban on visitors. All outpatient appointments have been cancelled today.

Visitor restrictions are also in place at Cork University Maternity Hospital and the hospital announced this morning that gynaecology outpatients are cancelled for today

Signs outside CUH emergency department. 
Signs outside CUH emergency department. 
Emergency plans were also being drawn up to create isolation units across the city and county in the event of the virus spreading through the community.

The HSE is identifying idle units in towns and the city suburbs that can quickly be converted into isolation units if required.

A unit at the St Mary’s Primary Care Centre in Gurranabraher is being examined as a possible swabbing centre for people to give samples to avoid attending crowded emergency departments.

Nationally, of the other six cases confirmed yesterday, four involve males from the east of the country and are travel-related from northern Italy.

Two other cases, females in the west, are associated with close contact with a previously confirmed case.

Last night, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the country “remains in containment phase with just one case of community transmission”.

The Department of Health was unable to identify how the coronavirus patient in Cork obtained the illness.

The Department of Health also confirmed that other patients at CUH are being assessed and all staff that have been in contact with the man have been sent home.

“Patients take absolute priority,” the department said.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health during a media update. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health during a media update.
Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Dr Holohan said the rise in the number of cases in Ireland was anticipated and not a surprise. He emphasised that members of the public should explore all other options before going to hostpital emergency departments.

Ireland is still in the containment phase and the World Health Organisation has not recommended a travel ban.

The Department of Health said it does not think a travel ban from affected regions, such as Italy, would be effective.

The outbreak of the disease in Ireland is too small to assess if it is a mild, moderate, or a severe strain of the virus, officials have said.

All cases of coronavirus are being treated in hospitals currently.

“People working in healthcare are facing a very unique and unusual challenge and we recognise and appreciate the work they will have to do over the coming days and weeks,” the department said.

Meanwhile, the Mater Private in Cork confirmed yesterday that as a precautionary measure it was restricting access to its facility to patients only.

A statement said: “As a precautionary measure, we are advised by our experts that in the interest of patient safety we are currently restricting access to the hospital’s facilities to patients only.”

The hospital confirmed that as a precautionary measure it had also been advised to cancel all non-essential meetings at the Cork facility.

The Mater Private Cork, based in Mahon, is the only Mater hospital in Ireland with the restrictions in place.

A spokesperson said there have been no confirmed or suspected cases at the Mater.

A statement from CUH confirmed that strict visitor restrictions applied.

“This is in the interest of patient care and in order to prevent the spread of infections within the hospital. We regret any inconvenience caused to patients and relatives by these necessary measures, which are being taken in the interests of patient care.

“All infection control measures are in place and every effort is being made to manage and contain the spread of infection.

“Management at the South/South West Hospital Group have requested that where appropriate the public contact their GP/Southdoc in the first instance and explore all other options available to them prior to presenting to Emergency Departments in the city if their needs are not urgent.”

  • Anyone with any queries about visiting times or visiting a particular ward should ring the hospital on 021 4922000.