American Airlines announced on Tuesday, February 4, that it would suspend all flights to Hong Kong through Thursday, February 20 due to the ongoing outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). On Friday, January 31, American Airlines suspended all flights to mainland China. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines also suspended flights to mainland China on Friday. Further flight cancelations are possible over the coming days.
As of February 4, Hong Kong has confirmed 15 cases of 2019-nCoV and one confirmed death from the virus.
On January 31, the Health and Human Services secretary declared a public health emergency in the United States due to the ongoing outbreak of the virus. Measures related to the declaration enter into effect on Sunday, February 2, at 17:00 (local time). The measures include mandatory quarantine for 14 days for any US citizen that has been to Hubei province, China, in the two weeks prior to their return. Those returning from other areas of mainland China will have health screening at a select number of ports of entry and the possibility of up to two weeks of monitored self-quarantine until the risk has been cleared.
The US Department of State increased its travel advisory to Level 4: Do Not Travel (the highest level) for all of mainland China on Thursday, January 30, also due to the ongoing outbreak. US citizens are also being warned to prepare for travel restrictions that may be put into effect with little or no advance notice. All non-essential US government personnel have been requested to defer travel to China.
As of February 4, 11 cases of 2019-nCoV have been confirmed in the US. Cases have been confirmed in the states of Washington, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Illinois. The first human-to-human transmission of the virus in the US was confirmed on January 30. More than 80 cases are still being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC maintains as of January 30 that "the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV is considered low" for the general American public.
Further international spread of the 2019-nCoV virus is to be expected over the coming days and weeks.
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 (Hubei province, China). 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.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in 23 countries worldwide besides China, as well as in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. Virus screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the ongoing novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak is a "public health emergency of international concern."
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.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments. 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
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