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22 Jan 2020 | 09:58 AM UTC

China: Virus death toll rises to 17 as CDC issues Level 2 health alert January 22 /update 13

Chinese health officials state that 17 have died from unidentified coronavirus as of January 22; CDC issues Level 2 health alert

health
CHN

Event

At 20:00 (local time) on Wednesday, January 22, Chinese government officials announced that the death toll from the Wuhan coronavirus had risen to 17, with more than 470 cases confirmed in China. Cases have been reported in 14 provinces, including urban centers such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Macau, and Hong Kong. Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus has also been confirmed. Stricter measures will be implemented in hospitals to protect staff from the outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 2 health alert on Wednesday, warning individuals who are in or who recently returned from Wuhan (Hubei province) to "practice enhanced precautions." The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding an emergency panel in Geneva (Switzerland) on Wednesday to decide if the outbreak needs to be classified as a "public health emergency of international concern."

Officials in Wuhan 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. Lunar New Year events in Wuhan were set to begin on Saturday, January 25, and continue through Saturday, February 8.

Fever screenings were implemented at Wuhan International Airport (WHU) to prevent the potential spread of the viral pneumonia on Wednesday, January 15. Individuals will be subject to temperature tests before boarding their flights and those displaying fever symptoms will be quarantined as a precaution. As of January 21, cases of the virus have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and the US, and suspected cases have been reported in Singapore and Australia. Similar screening measures are being implemented at airports throughout Asia, Australia, and the US.

Further spread of the illness is possible over the near term, particularly during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

Context

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.

Advice

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