The Deputy Director of the National Health Commission, Li Bin, announced during a press conference on Wednesday, January 22, that the total number of nationwide cases of the new coronavirus that originated from Wuhan (Hubei province) has increased to 440 as of 23:59 (local time) on Tuesday, January 21. Bin also confirmed at least nine associated fatalities from pneumonia due to the outbreak; however, all deaths have been reported in Hubei province. Cases have been reported in 14 provinces, including the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus has also been confirmed. Stricter measures will be implemented in hospitals to protect staff from the outbreak. Health officials are urging people to wear face masks and to avoid densely populated areas as a precaution.
Officials in Wuhan announced on Tuesday that all celebrations and public gatherings related to the Lunar New Year would be canceled due to the ongoing outbreak. Lunar New Year events in Wuhan were set to begin on Saturday, January 25, and continue through Saturday, February 8.
Fever screenings were implemented at Wuhan International Airport (WHU) to prevent the potential spread of the viral pneumonia on Wednesday, January 15. Individuals will be subject to temperature tests before boarding their flights and those displaying fever symptoms will be quarantined as a precaution. As of January 21, cases of the virus have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and the US, and suspected cases have been reported in Singapore and Australia. Similar screening measures are being implemented at airports throughout Asia, Australia, and the US.
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
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