On the morning (local time) of Saturday, January 25, The Australian health minister announced that there were four confirmed cases of a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which originated in Wuhan (Hubei province, China) in December 2019. One case has been reported in Melbourne and the other three are in New South Wales region.
On Friday, January 24, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) increased 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 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 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 Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, France, Australia and the US, and suspected cases have been reported in Mexico. 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, 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