US detects first case of Coronavirus in Seattle, WHO to debate on ‘global health emergency’
China has confirmed the coronavirus strain is contagious between humans, tightening control on people exiting and entering Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the core of the outbreak, amid anxiety ahead the country’s biggest festival, the Lunar New Year (LNY).Updated: Jan 22, 2020 05:39 IST
The death toll from the fast-spreading coronavirus rose to six on Tuesday as airports in India and around the world stepped up screening of travellers, and the World Health Organization (WHO) called a meeting to consider declaring a global health emergency over the outbreak, with the number of cases climbing beyond 300.
China has confirmed the coronavirus strain is contagious between humans, tightening control on people exiting and entering Wuhan, the central Chinese city at the core of the outbreak, amid anxiety ahead the country’s biggest festival, the Lunar New Year (LNY).
Late on Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a traveller from China was diagnosed near Seattle with the virus. The man, in his 30s, is said to be in a good condition at a hospital in Everett, outside Seattle.
As many as 319 people have been infected, health authorities in China said on Tuesday, adding that two more people died in Wuhan in the past 24 hours, pushing the toll up to six. Two cases were confirmed in Tianjin, a city neighbouring Beijing; reports in the past 24 hours said the virus has spread across China, and in at least seven cases, outside its borders to Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia.
In India, the civil aviation ministry directed seven airports including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata to make arrangements for screening of passengers arriving from China in the wake of the outbreak. Airlines flying in from any airport in China have been asked to make in-flight announcements requesting passengers with history of fever and cough and travel to Wuhan in the past 14 days to announce themselves at the port of arrival in order to facilitate early isolation, according to an official statement. The action-plan includes thermal screening. The statement came after an advisory by the Indian health ministry over the outbreak.
Though the origin of the virus is yet to be identified, WHO said the primary source is probably animal. Chinese officials have linked the outbreak to Wuhan’s seafood market. The virus can cause pneumonia, with symptoms including fever and difficulty in breathing. As those symptoms are similar to many other respiratory diseases, extra screening is needed.
The authorities in China are now attempting to isolate the previously unknown virus in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and a transport and education hub. According to officials in Beijing, 14 medical staff have been infected in Wuhan – confirming fears that the virus is contagious. Officials in China confirmed on Monday that humans can be infected by other humans with the new virus.Initially, the virus was thought to be zoonotic, or one transmitted from infected animals to humans.
The Wuhan municipal health commission has said local tourist groups were banned from travelling outside the city and vehicles entering and leaving were being checked. Local authorities will continue to exercise control over entry and exit into Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the suspected source of the virus. “Thirty-five stationary infrared thermometers and over 300 hand-held ones have been used to screen passengers with fevers at various transport terminals in Wuhan, including the airport, railway stations, bus stations and passenger piers,” China’s official news agency Xinhua reported. It added: “Passengers with fevers will be registered, provided masks and brochures about pneumonia and advised to see doctors. Ticket cancellations and changing will be free of charge”.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it hadn’t implemented a complete ban on exiting or entering the city of Wuhan. Questions are being raised whether the right steps were taken in time by the Chinese government – even by the state media. “Some people suspect that the government did not unveil all relevant information in a timely manner, like the situation in the early stages of the SARS outbreak in 2003. As the epidemic situation remains unclear and China has not entered into a state of mobilisation, the Chinese government tends to issue the information in pursuit of stability and accuracy, instead of making predictions that could result in panic. But this is not like the situation in the early stages of SARS,” the nationalistic tabloid, Global Times, said.