Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced on Tuesday, January 28, that high-speed rail services and ferries from Hong Kong to mainland China will be suspended until further notice as of Thursday, January 30, to prevent the spread of the ongoing coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak that originated in Wuhan (Hubei province). To date, eight confirmed cases have been reported in Hong Kong.
Further spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the implementation of the maximum health warning level in Hong Kong on January 25 after the city reported five confirmed coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases.
The first case of 2019-nCoV was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan. Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus. At least 106 people have died in China, and an estimated 4600 cases have been confirmed worldwide.
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 28, cases of the virus have been confirmed in Australia, Canada, Cambodia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and the US. 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 Hong Kong and mainland 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 and 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.
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