Novel coronavirus: more than 1500 people believed to be infected
19 janvier 2020
Should Mauritius worry about the novel 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in Wuhan, in China ? Up till now, 62 cases have been reported, with 17 on Sunday 19 January. With two deaths and three new victims in a critical condition, British experts working closely with the World Health Organisation are of the opinion that the number of infected people is much higher than that which China has declared. They estimate around 1700 victims.
The outbreak of 2019-nCoV has been discussed during Cabinet on Friday 17 January. “Cabinet has taken note of the outbreak of pneumonia caused by a new Coronavirus in China and also of the preventive measures that need to be taken. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has issued a communiqué in that respect.” However, Government, as well as the WHO, have not yet issued a travel advisory. The WHO has recommended people travelling from and to China to be very cautious and to exercise hygienic practices. They have also suggested people who suffer from possible symptoms of the virus to visit the doctor at once and to explain their travel history. Guidelines for diagnostic detection have been set up which are available online in aim of identifying maximum cases and limiting the spread of the virus.
Spreading animal-to-person and human-to-human
While the origin and cure of this new virus is yet unknown, Chinese officials suspect that it is spreading from animal-to-person and human-to-human. Although the latter case is more limited, it is not off the radar. The first case emerged in early December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in China, when a person complained of severe chest pains and breathing difficulties.
However, the uncontained virus has already spread to other countries, namely: Thailand and Japan. Two confirmed cases has been reported in Thailand and both people were Chinese tourists from Wuhan whereas the one confirmed case that has been reported in Japan is that of a Japanese citizen who had visited Wuhan.
Over 70% of the people diagnosed with the virus have had some sort of contact with Huanan wholesale seafood market, a market in Wuhan that sells a large variety of seafood and other animals such as chickens, bats and marmots amongst others. This has prompted the closing down of the market since 1 January until further investigation can either confirm or deny the alleged connection between the market and the virus.
The possibility of human-to-human spread has not been ignored as some of the people who contracted the disease deny visiting that market. Therefore, the only deduction is that disease has been transmitted by a human. This argument is strengthened by the case of an infected couple whereby the husband worked in that market but the wife did not visit that market. Health care workers are being cautious and monitored closely to detect human-to-human spread of the virus but no cases have been reported till now.
Countries around the world on alert
Countries around the world are on alert and very cautious with regards to the present situation and have resolved to airport screening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States is closely monitoring the situation and is working in close collaboration with the WHO.
The chief medical officer of Australia, Brendan Murphy, said that authorities are “watching developments very closely” but had not issued a travel warning. According to him, there is no need to strengthen already existing airport screening yet. On Saturday, he also stated that “there is no current need for any travel advisory in Australia, which is consistent with recommendations from the World Health Organisation”.
The Union Health Ministry of India, on the other hand, has issued a travel advisory, advising those visiting China to avoid travel to farms, live animal markets or where animals are slaughtered, and to refrain from consuming « raw or under-cooked meat ».