Chinese health officials confirmed on Thursday, January 23, that the number of cases of the novel coronavirus - now classified as 2019-nCOV by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - has increased to 571 throughout China. At least 17 deaths from pneumonia caused by the virus have also been confirm as of Thursday. The majority of cases remain concentrated in the city of Wuhan (Hubei province). In an effort to prevent further spread of the outbreak in Wuhan, all train, ferry, flight, and long-distance bus services were suspended in Wuhan at 10:00 (local time) on January 23. According to media reports, security forces have deployed to transportation hubs to prevent individuals from attempting to leave the area. 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. Further restrictions on travel and movement throughout the city may be implemented in the coming days. Local authorities have urged residents not to leave the city and warned visitors not to travel to Wuhan.
Cases have been reported in 14 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 has also been confirmed. Stricter measures will be implemented in hospitals to protect staff from the outbreak.
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." The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding an emergency panel in Geneva (Switzerland) on Thursday to decide if the outbreak needs to be classified as a "public health emergency of international concern."
As of January 22, cases of the virus have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and the US, and suspected cases have been reported in Singapore, Mexico, and Australia. Fever 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.
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