A Chinese government health official confirmed the first human-to-human transmission of the unidentified coronavirus in Wuhan (Hubei province) on Monday, January 20. According to the head of China’s health commission team investigating the virus, 14 medical workers caught the virus while treating patients in Wuhan. As of Tuesday, January 21, 218 cases have been confirmed, along with four deaths due to pneumonia caused by the virus. Cases outside of Wuhan have been reported in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangdong province. Health officials in Japan, Thailand, and South Korea also confirmed cases of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) will hold an emergency panel in Geneva (Switzerland) on Wednesday, January 22, to decide if the outbreak needs to be classified as a “public health emergency of international concern.”
Fever screenings were implemented at at Wuhan International Airport (WHU) to prevent the potential spread of the viral pneumonia on Wednesday, January 15, after cases linked to the outbreak in Wuhan were reported in Thailand and Japan. Individuals will be subject to temperature tests before boarding their flights and those displaying fever symptoms will be quarantined as a precaution.
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