United Airlines announced on Friday, February 28, that it would be suspending some service to Tokyo and Osaka (Japan), Seoul (South Korea), and Singapore to prevent further spread of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Additionally, it announced that its previous suspension of all flights to mainland China, including Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai, and Hong Kong will be extended through April 30.
On January 31, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in the United States due to the ongoing outbreak of the virus. Measures related to the declaration entered into effect at 17:00 (local time) on Sunday, February 2. 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 be subject to a health screening at a select number of ports of entry with 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, 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 nonessential US government personnel have been requested to defer travel to China.
As of February 28, 60 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the US. Cases have been confirmed in the states of Washington, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The first human-to-human transmission of the virus in the US was confirmed on January 30. More than 60 cases are still being investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC maintained as of February 28 that "the potential public health threat posed by 2019-nCoV (now COVID-19) virus is high" both to the US and globally.
Further international spread of the COVID-19 virus is to be expected over the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 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 numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On February 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the COVID-19 outbreak is a "very grave threat."
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.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands
- If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider
- Adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments
In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran, who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to avoid potential spread of the disease.
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