An ongoing outbreak of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has left at least 80 people dead in China, including 24 newly reported deaths in Wuhan (Hubei province), the origin of the outbreak, as of Sunday, January 26. More than 2400 confirmed cases of the illness have also been reported in mainland China. Chinese authorities have extended the observance of the Lunar New Year holiday "to a proper extent" past Thursday, January 30, and have issued a ban on the wildlife trade to curb the spread of the virus. Notably, the US Consulate in Wuhan has reportedly planned to evacuate diplomatic personnel and private citizens from Wuhan on a flight to San Francisco on Tuesday, January 28.
On Friday, January 24, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) increased their health alert for the novel coronavirus in Hubei province to "Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel." The CDC warns that the virus poses an increased risk for severe illness to older adults and people with underlying health conditions.
Further spread of the illness is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of 2019-nCoV was reported on December 31. The source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan. Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have 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 26, cases of the virus have been confirmed in France, Australia, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, the US, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal, Macao, and Taiwan and suspected cases have been reported in Mexico and Côte d'Ivoire. Virus 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 who plan to travel to or have recently returned from China, particularly 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 and 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