Officials in Wuhan (Hubei province) announced on Tuesday, January 21, that all celebrations and public gatherings related to the Lunar New Year would be canceled due to the ongoing outbreak of an unidentified coronavirus in the area. Lunar New Year events in Wuhan were set to begin on Saturday, January 25, and continue through Saturday, February 8. This decision comes after Chinese health officials confirmed the first human-to-human transmission of the virus on Monday, January 20.
As of January 21, 291 cases of the virus have been confirmed, along with six deaths due to pneumonia caused by the virus. Cases outside of Wuhan have been reported in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangdong province, with suspected cases reported in Yunnan, Sichuan, Guangxi, and Shandong provinces. Health officials in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and Taiwan have also confirmed cases of the virus.
Fever screenings were implemented at Wuhan International Airport (WHU) to prevent the potential spread of the viral pneumonia on Wednesday, January 15, after cases linked to the outbreak in Wuhan were reported in Thailand and Japan. Individuals will be subject to temperature tests before boarding their flights and those displaying fever symptoms will be quarantined as a precaution. Fever screenings have been implemented at airports worldwide for passengers traveling from Wuhan, including in the US at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) (New York state) and California state's San Francisco International (SFO) and Los Angeles International (LAX) airports.
Further spread of the illness is possible over the near term, particularly during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble 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 the airport. 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 developing symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid spread of the disease