Responding to Coronavirus

Heart to Heart International is deploying a medical team to the Marshall Islands to prepare ahead of potential COVID-19 (Coronavirus) infections on the islands.

February 25, 2020 – As of February 25, more than 80,000 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed globally, with more than 2,000 outside of China. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the global risk level as high.

In January the WHO declared the COVID-19 virus a “public health emergency of international concern” and has since asked us to deploy a team to the Republic of the Marshall Islands to support COVID-19 planning, preparedness and training. The response team will depart on Saturday, February 29.
Because areas of the world lacking in comprehensive medical infrastructure are most vulnerable to the potential spread of the virus, the objective of deploying a team to the Marshall Islands will be to treat the current outbreak of dengue and influenza and establish procedures to contain and manage any potential future outbreak of COVID-19.

“Heart to Heart International has extensive expertise in infection control and quarantine from its work in Liberia at the height of the Ebola epidemic as well as cholera outbreaks in Haiti. Using that expertise, we are able to instruct on and create appropriate procedures to help medical personnel on the island contain and manage any potential virus outbreak.”

– Dr. Rick Randolph, HHI Chief Medical Officer

It is imperative that we all work together to manage and contain potential infections to stop the global spread of the virus.

We need your help. 

Consisting of 1,156 small islands in the central Pacific, the Marshall Islands were administered by the United States after WWII until 1979. The United States continues to provide international defense and funding, and Marshall Islanders can freely travel to and work in the United States.

While there are no suspected cases of COVID-19 in the Marshall Islands, the country is currently in the midst of a dengue outbreak that has been ongoing for more than six months and an influenza outbreak. The Health Emergency Operations Center (HEOC), activated since July 2019 to other ongoing outbreaks, now has expanded efforts for COVID-19 monitoring and preparedness. The islands nation has requested support through the WHO to implement preparedness and response measures to minimize the risk of importation and potential local transmission of COVID-19. The Ministry of Health is working to establish expanded isolation areas for patient isolation and for quarantine for potential COVID-19 importation.

Heart to Heart International is actively preparing for a response to the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from Wuhan, China.

February 11, 2020 – As of February 11, the virus has caused more than 40,500 confirmed cases of respiratory disease and at least 1,000 deaths, surpassing the totals from the SARS epidemic in 2003. Suspected and confirmed cases have been found in 25 countries, with the vast majority in China.

On January 30, the World Health Organization declared it a public health emergency and notified its system of Emergency Medical Teams (including HHI) to ascertain the state of readiness and availability should there be an international request for medical teams.

HHI has been working to procure the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gowns and other specialized equipment that will be critical to decreasing the spread of infection, as well as working with partners throughout China to determine health and medical needs. HHI has committed its willingness to respond to the WHO.

The new coronavirus is derived from the virus family that includes the common cold, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

CDC recommends several protective measures against this virus.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Maintain at least 3 feet distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces that can be contaminated with the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.
  • If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China, carefully practice basic respiratory and hand hygiene and stay home until you are recovered, if possible.