The outbreak of the epidemic is hard to pinpoint but most likely it has spread from one of Wuhan’s so-called wet markets selling freshly slaughtered meat, such as the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which was closed down on 1 January this year, the virus being transmitted from an unidentified animal to a human. Normally the zoonotic coronavirus rarely passes between humans, and then only with bodily fluids, a reason why most infections happen within the family or affecting health workers dealing with the infected. A widespread pandemic is not likely to happen.
Having said that, the local authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO) jointly take effective measures to stop the spreading of the virus. All flights departing from Wuhan have been grounded, passengers from all Chinese airports are thoroughly health checked at their destinations, and those suspected to be infected are treated immediately.
Corralling the outbreak is further complicated by the seasonal flu epidemic peaking this time of the year in China. As it happens, masses of people are on the move all over the country for the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations in late January, a colourful event that also attracts foreigners in legions.
Those are most at risk who travelled through the city of Wuhan in the past 14 days, or had physical contact (within 2 metres) with people who had been to Wuhan in that period, and show symptoms of severe respiratory infection or pneumonia. For the time being, there is no commonly available diagnostic method to identify the new coronavirus strain. WHO will provide national centres of infectious diseases with suitable diagnostic methods.
The most effective preventive measures are the same as for other infectious diseases that spread with bodily fluids: frequent and thorough hand washing, avoiding direct contact with the infected, and sanitising their everyday objects. Influenza vaccination (to avoid similar symptoms and a compromised immune system) may also help. Travelling to the infected regions of China is not recommended.
The physicians at Dr. Rose Private Hospital follow up on the latest medical reports about the new epidemic on a daily basis and do everything to inform our patients if necessary.