Novel Coronavirus spreads to 11 countries outside China

The novel coronavirus has spread to 11 countries – with 37 confirmed cases – outside China, where it was first confirmed last month, according to the latest update from the United Nations’ health agency.

The novel coronavirus has spread to 11 countries – with 37 confirmed cases – outside China, where it was first confirmed last month, according to the latest update from the United Nations’ health agency.

Earlier, on Sunday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said 29 confirmed cases were reported outside China in 10 countries – France (3), Japan (3), USA (2), Australia (4), Vietnam (2), Singapore (4), Malaysia (3), Thailand (5), Nepal (1), and South Korea (2).

But the latest update includes a case in Canada, with a first confirmed case. 

This took the total confirmed cases, globally, to 2,798 up from 2,014. 

While the number of confirmed cases remained the same elsewhere, it rose to 2741 in China, four in Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, and 5 in the United States.

No deaths have been reported in other countries but there have been 80 deaths in China, so far.

A delegation from WHO led by Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is in Beijing to meet with government and health experts supporting response to the outbreak.

The mission seeks to understand the latest developments and strengthen the partnership with China, in wake of the particular for the response. 

It is estimated that the incubation period of the virus ranges from 2-10 days, according to WHO, which however adds that these estimates will be refined as more data becomes available.

“Understanding the time when infected patients may transmit the virus to others is critical for control efforts,” the UN agency said in a statement.

“Detailed epidemiological information from more people infected is needed to determine the infectious period of 2019-nCoV, in particular whether transmission can occur from asymptomatic individuals or during the incubation period.”

Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Director-General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), told The New Times on Monday that despite the fact that the threat of the novel coronavirus is real with the virus evolving quickly across the globe, the public should not panic.

Nsanzimana noted that this new virus, which originated from Wuhan in China’s Hubei province late last year, affects mainly the elderly, people with underlying diseases, and children.

The WHO said it is working with a network of specialists in the continued effort to thwart further spread.

In Rwanda, the Government last week issued a safety advisory for institutions in the travel industry in Rwanda concerning the safety of passengers travelling to other countries, especially where cases of the deadly new Coronavirus are reported.

In Kenya, the Foreign Affairs ministry on Monday advised Kenyans against "all but necessary travel" to China as a precaution.

A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. 

Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people. 

Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. A civet is a small, lean, mostly nocturnal mammal native to tropical Asia and Africa, especially the tropical forests.

Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

What the public should pay attention to

According to the WHO, common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.

Nsanzimana said the public needs to know the clinical symptoms of the novel coronavirus – fever, cough, running nose, difficulty breathing, pneumonia and lung infiltrates which can be detected with chest x-ray.

He said the public needs to alert public health authorities whenever one of these signs is present for travellers or their contacts from affected regions such as China. 

“Protective measures are similar to flu-like prevention yet we don’t do well and people continue to infect each-other,” he noted.

Therefore, he said, there should be daily practices as recommended.

The six daily practices, according to him, are:

-Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

-Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

-Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

-Stay home when you are sick.

-Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

-Avoid unnecessary handshaking if you present clinical signs of the flu-like syndrome.

jkaruhanga@newtimesrwanda.com

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