On Thursday, January 23, health officials confirmed that a man in Hebei province died of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which originated in Wuhan (Hubei province) in December 2019. The 80-year-old victim resided in Hubei province for two months before traveling to Hebei, where he died on the night (local time) of Wednesday, January 22. Officials confirmed that the virus was the cause of his death on Thursday, making it the first confirmed 2019-nCoV fatality outside of Hubei province.
Also on Thursday, authorities announced that all Lunar New Year celebrations in Beijing would be canceled to curb further spread of the disease and that Beijing's Palace Museum will be closed to tourists beginning Saturday, January 25. New Year festivities typically draw hundreds of thousands of people to the capital.
Travel restrictions are currently in place in Wuhan, Ezhou, Huanggong, Chibi, and Zhijiang (Hubei province) to curb the spread of the virus. All train and bus services were suspended in the abovementioned cities as of Thursday. All train, ferry, flight, and long-distance bus services were suspended and tolls on the roadways were closed in Wuhan at 10:00 on Thursday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency panel in Geneva (Switzerland) on Thursday to discuss the virus, ultimately deciding that it was too early to classify the outbreak as a "public health emergency of international concern."
Further spread of the illness is possible over the near term, particularly during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has killed 18 people and infected more than 630 across China as of January 23. Most cases have been recorded in the city of Wuhan. According to media reports, security forces have deployed to transportation hubs to prevent individuals from attempting to leave the city. Authorities have also ordered residents to wear masks in public places. All celebrations and public gatherings related to the Lunar New Year have been canceled as a precaution. Local authorities have urged residents to not leave the city and warned visitors to not travel to Wuhan.
Cases have been reported in 25 provinces in China, including urban centers such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Macau, and Hong Kong. Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have also been confirmed. Stricter measures are expected to be implemented in hospitals to protect staff from the outbreak.
As of January 23, cases of the virus have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US, and suspected cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Australia. Fever screening measures are being implemented at airports throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America, Australia, the Middle East, and the US.
On Wednesday, January 22, the CDC issued a Level 2 health alert warning individuals who are in or who recently returned from Wuhan to "practice enhanced precautions." In particular, CDC officials warned that the virus poses an increased threat to older adults with underlying health conditions.
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