First 100 Persons with COVID-19 - Zambia, March 18-April 28, 2020.MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Oct 23; 69(42):1547-1548.MM
Zambia is a landlocked, lower-middle income country in southern Africa, with a population of 17 million (1). The first known cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Zambia occurred in a married couple who had traveled to France and were subject to port-of-entry surveillance and subsequent remote monitoring of travelers with a history of international travel for 14 days after arrival. They were identified as having suspected cases on March 18, 2020, and tested for COVID-19 after developing respiratory symptoms during the 14-day monitoring period. In March 2020, the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) defined a suspected case of COVID-19 as 1) an acute respiratory illness in a person with a history of international travel during the 14 days preceding symptom onset; or 2) acute respiratory illness in a person with a history of contact with a person with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in the 14 days preceding symptom onset; or 3) severe acute respiratory illness requiring hospitalization; or 4) being a household or close contact of a patient with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. This definition was adapted from World Health Organization (WHO) interim guidance issued March 20, 2020, on global surveillance for COVID-19 (2) to also include asymptomatic contacts of persons with confirmed COVID-19. Persons with suspected COVID-19 were identified through various mechanisms, including port-of-entry surveillance, contact tracing, health care worker (HCW) testing, facility-based inpatient screening, community-based screening, and calls from the public into a national hotline administered by the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit and ZNPHI. Port-of-entry surveillance included an arrival screen consisting of a temperature scan, report of symptoms during the preceding 14 days, and collection of a history of travel and contact with persons with confirmed COVID-19 in the 14 days before arrival in Zambia, followed by daily remote telephone monitoring for 14 days. Travelers were tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, if they were symptomatic upon arrival or developed symptoms during the 14-day monitoring period. Persons with suspected COVID-19 were tested as soon as possible after evaluation for respiratory symptoms or within 7 days of last known exposure (i.e., travel or contact with a confirmed case). All COVID-19 diagnoses were confirmed using real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing (SARS-CoV-2 Nucleic Acid Detection Kit, Maccura) of nasopharyngeal specimens; all patients with confirmed COVID-19 were admitted into institutional isolation at the time of laboratory confirmation, which was generally within 36 hours. COVID-19 patients were deemed recovered and released from isolation after two consecutive PCR-negative test results ≥24 hours apart. A Ministry of Health memorandum was released on April 13, 2020, mandating testing in public facilities of 1) all persons admitted to medical and pediatric wards regardless of symptoms; 2) all patients being admitted to surgical and obstetric wards, regardless of symptoms; 3) any outpatient with fever, cough, or shortness of breath; and 4) any facility or community death in a person with respiratory symptoms, and 5) biweekly screening of all HCWs in isolation centers and health facilities where persons with COVID-19 had been evaluated. This report describes the first 100 COVID-19 cases reported in Zambia, during March 18-April 28, 2020.