At least 213 people have died in China with 10,000 recorded cases of the virus as of January 31st, 2020. Most countries have announced plans to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, the Chinese centre which is believed to be the outbreak of the deadly virus.
On January 30th, 2020 the World Health Organization(WHO) declared the coronavirus as a public health emergency of international concern. The WHO added that there had been 98 cases in 18 other countries, but no deaths.
Previously, there have been 5 public health emergencies of international concern– H1N1(2009), polio(2014), Ebola in West Africa(2014), Zika(2016) and Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo(2019).
China in the meantime has said to work closely with the WHO and other countries to maintain global and regional public health security.
Meanwhile, the US State Department announced a highest-level warning not to travel to China due to the recent coronavirus outbreak.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took to Twitter to warn its citizens against travelling to China. A Level 4 travel advisory has been issued by America which is considered is the most severe warning issued by the State Department.
WHO is working closely with global experts, governments and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on this new virus, to track the spread and virulence of the virus, and to provide advice to countries and individuals on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of this outbreak.
Novel Coronavirus advice for the public:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
- If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
- When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
- The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
Advice for exit screening in countries or areas with ongoing transmission of the novel coronavirus by WHO:
- Conduct exit screening at international airports and ports in the affected areas, with the aims early detection of symptomatic travellers for further evaluation and treatment, and thus prevent exportation of the disease. while minimizing interference with international traffic;
- Exit screening includes checking for signs and symptoms (fever above 38°, cough), interview of passengers with respiratory infection symptoms leaving the affected areas with regards to potential exposure to high-risk contacts or to the presumed animal source, directing symptomatic travellers to further medical examination, followed by testing for 2019-nCoV, and keeping confirmed cases under isolation and treatment;
- Encourage screening at domestic airports, railway stations, and long-distance bus stations as necessary;
- Travellers who had contact with confirmed cases or direct exposure to potential source of infection should be placed under medical observation. High-risk contacts should avoid travel for the duration of the incubation period (up to 14 days);
- Implement health information campaigns at Points of Entry to raise awareness of reducing the general risk of acute respiratory infections and the measures required, should a traveller develop signs and symptoms suggestive of infection with the 2019-nCoV and how they can obtain assistance.
Myth Busters: Can pets at home spread the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?
At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.
Photo Credit: @WHO