The U.S.-led international coalition in Afghanistan is closely monitoring the potential spread of coronavirus in the country, as Afghan officials confirmed the first case of infection.
The health and safety of the international forces are “top priorities,” NATO’s Resolute Support mission said in a statement, which came as American military officials throughout the Central Command area of responsibility were working to respond to the virus’s spread.
“As suspected cases are beginning to appear regionally, we are closely monitoring and implementing the guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure our forces remain effective and able to continue support to our (Afghan) partners while preventing the spread of the virus,” the statement said.
A man from the western city of Herat who recently traveled to Iran has tested positive for the virus and has been quarantined, said Ahmad Tawhid Shokohmand, deputy spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry.
The city is home to an Italian-run regional headquarters for the NATO mission at Camp Arena, which is home to some American and other international troops. The bulk of U.S. troops are based in the country’s east and south, hundreds of miles from the city.
Traders and workers from Herat frequently cross into Iran, where coronavirus infections have killed at least 50 people across the country, The Associated Press reported Monday.
Afghanistan has issued a ban on travel to Iran, Shokohmand said, and is preparing 30 beds in eight locations around the country for possible coronavirus patients.
The coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 illness, first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December. The World Health Organization has declared it a global health emergency, with more than 2,400 deaths around the world as of Sunday, most of them in China.
The CDC recommends avoiding close contact with people who are sick, as well as avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth. It also recommends regularly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
CDC guidance recommends masks for caregivers and people who are sick, but not for protection against respiratory diseases.