Health experts to greet flights from China

Henrietta Brewer
January 24, 2020

A Snohomish County resident in his 30s who had recently traveled through Wuhan, China, the region identified as the epicenter for the new virus, began presenting symptoms Thursday, Jan. 16, one day after he got back from a trip to visit family.

After a meeting at its Geneva headquarters on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it would decide on Thursday whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency, which would step up the worldwide response.

Every case of the disease, dubbed WN-CoV by Public Health England (PHE) can be traced back to the city.

Wuhan has urged people to stay away in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

The measure was meant to "effectively cut off the transmission of the virus, resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic, and ensure the health and safety of the people", state media cited Wuhan's virus task-force as saying.

Wuhan's move was praised by Ghebreyesus as a "very strong" measure that could minimize the risk of contagion.

"If Wuhan is taking such drastic measures, we must assume widespread community transmission in this central China megacity & transport hub", Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University Law School in Washington, wrote in a tweet.

In addition to 258 cases in Wuhan, more than 20 have been diagnosed in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong province in the south and Zhejiang in the east.

The number of confirmed cases in China has increased to 835, according to China's National Health Commission.

Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown, reporting from Hong Kong, noted that China was being more transparent about the virus than it was at the time of the SARS, which ended up spreading to dozens of countries and killing some 800 people.

The novel coronavirus that's infected around 300 people in China, and killed at least six, has reached the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding an emergency meeting later on Wednesday to determine whether to declare a rare global public health emergency over the disease, which has also been detected in the United States, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and South Korea. Numerous patients lived in or traveled to Wuhan.

"The best way to conquer fear is to confront fear", said one commentator on China's Twitter-like Weibo.

"There has already been human-to-human transmission and infection of medical workers", Li Bin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, said at a news conference Wednesday. Symptoms include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath.

"I feel fearful, because there's no cure for the virus", said Fu Ning, a 36-year-old woman in Beijing.

Health care workers are also trying to identify people who may have had contact with the infected traveler, and are notifying some of the passengers on his return flight who might have been exposed.

But companies with operations in China, from Foxconn 2317.TW to Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] and HSBC Holdings, warned staff to avoid Wuhan and handed out masks.

"When needed, temperature checks will also be implemented in key areas at crowded places", the health commission said in a statement.

India will expand thermal screening of passengers arriving from China, including Hong Kong, to seven airports from the current three.

These airports will be actively screening passengers for the virus. Health officials had not confirmed his flight plans to trace his travel back to the USA, as of Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Chinese authorities confirmed that six people have died of the infection in Wuhan.

Other reports by iNewsToday