Italian Education Minister Lucia Azzolina announced on Wednesday, March 4, that all schools and universities in Italy would be closed from Thursday, March 5, until Sunday, March 15, to prevent further spread of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
As of March 4, health officials confirmed 3090 cases of the virus nationwide, including 107 deaths. The most affected region remains Lombardy, where 1820 cases were recorded as of Wednesday.
Numerous countries and territories around the world have issued travel restrictions and/or canceled flight operations to and from Italy. Individuals traveling to or from Italy are advised to contact their airline and/or their embassy for more information.
Further international spread of COVID-19 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.
On February 22, authorities implemented restrictions on movement in 11 towns in the Lombardy and Veneto regions that were deemed hot spots for COVID-19. Affected towns include Codogno, Casapusterlengo, Castiglione d'Adda, Maleo, Fombio, Bertonico, Castelgerundo, Somaglia, San Fiorano, Terranova dei Passerini, and Vo Euganeo. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that no one would be allowed to enter or leave the designated areas without special permission.
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 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the risk of spread and the risk of impact of the virus is "very high" at the global level.
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.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
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 prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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