As of 18:00 (local time) on Saturday, January 25, 41 people have died nationwide in connection to the ongoing novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) outbreak, which originated in Wuhan (Hubei province). At least 1372 cases have been confirmed and thousands of people remain under medical observation. At least 30 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions across China have raised their public health alert to the highest level, which will enable measures such as quarantining.
At least 17 cities in Hubei remain locked down; consequently services at airports, bridges, public transportation services, and long-distance passenger buses have been suspended. Movement to and from other cities around Wuhan remains limited. In an effort to prevent further spread of the virus, authorities in Wuhan announced that as of Sunday, January 26, all non-essential vehicles would be banned in the downtown area. It remains unclear how long the restriction will remain in place.
On Friday, January 24 the US CDC increase their health alert to Level 3, warning individuals to avoid all nonessential travel to Wuhan. In particular, CDC officials warned that the virus poses an increased threat to older adults with underlying health conditions.
Further spread of the illness is possible over the near term, particularly during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
The first case of 2019-nCOV was reported on December 31. Authorities are still investigating the primary source of the outbreak, but the first cases were connected to people who worked at or visited a seafood market in Wuhan. Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have also been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency panel in Geneva (Switzerland) on January 23 to discuss the virus, ultimately deciding that it was too early to classify the outbreak as a "public health emergency of international concern." As of January 24, cases of the virus have been confirmed in Australia, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, France, Nepal, Macao, Malaysia and the US, and suspected cases have been reported in Mexico. Fever screening measures are being implemented at airports worldwide.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Individuals in China, particularly those in Hubei province, are advised to monitor the situation and anticipate additional security checks at airports. Individuals are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce their risk of contracting the virus:
- Avoid all contact with animals (dead or alive); avoid eating animal products that are undercooked; avoid all markets where animals are sold
- Avoid all close contact with people displaying symptoms of the disease (e.g. difficulties breathing)
- Frequently wash hands, wear a face mask
- Individuals within China developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to seek medical attention, avoid contact with other people, and wash hands regularly
- Adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments
- Travelers returning from China and developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid spreading the disease