At least two of the passengers from the “Diamond Princess” cruise ship who tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have died as of Thursday. February 20. According to local media reports, both individuals were elderly Japanese citizens with underlying illnesses and had been taken off the ship on February 11-12. As of Wednesday, February 19, 621 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among the approximately 37,000 passengers on the cruise ship. Also on Thursday, a second group of around 600 passengers were allowed to disembark after testing negative for coronavirus. Almost all passengers are expected to leave the ship by Friday, February 21.
Travel and transportation disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak are still impacting Japan as of February 20. On Tuesday, February 18, Japan Airlines announced that it will reduce the number of flights from Japan to South Korea and Taiwan through late March and will further cut service to mainland China. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also advised people throughout the country to stay at home if they develop cold-like symptoms as a precaution. An entry ban on individuals who have traveled to Zhejiang and Hubei provinces within the preceding 14 days also remains in place.
As of February 20, at least 84 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Japan. Further international spread of the 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 30 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 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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