Novel coronavirus: How big is the threat to public health?

Muscat: On December 31, 2019,  the Chinese city of Wuhan alerted the WHO about an outbreak of pneumonia with 40 cases. On January 10. the Chinese authorities informed that a new coronavirus named 2019-nCoV has been identified. There are many Coronavirus in both humans and animals, most infections in humans give symptoms like the common cold.

Some Coronavirus can give more severe symptoms like acute pneumonia with fever cough and shortness of breath.

Examples of Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) that previously caused two epidemics are MERS-Coronavirus and SARS-Coronavirus.

As of January 28, 2020, more than 4,174 cases have been recorded in China including 106 deaths. In addition, 65 cases have been reported outside of China in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam, Nepal, Australia, France, USA, and Canada.

No cases of nCoV have been reported in the Sultanate or in the Middle East.

Right now epidemiological investigations are still ongoing in China to identify the animal reservoir of nCoV. Some studies have shown that the new virus shares some similarities to Coronavirus found in bats.

The transmission of the virus from one person to another happens through close contact with an infected person, for instance within the family, at workplaces or in the healthcare facilities and surfaces contaminated surfaces, therefore, hand washing is an important preventive measure.

Health Care Workers are recommended to use appropriate personal infection prevention and control measures.

The most common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. In the most severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. People with old age and underlying disease are at risk of complications and death.

To date, there is no vaccine for this virus and no effective drugs for treatment. It may take several years before a vaccine against the virus can be made. Supportive care for people infected can be very effective.

In response to the outbreak, Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, including buses, subways, trains, and the international airport.  World Health Organization has not yet been yet decided on international travel restrictions on the republic of China.  However, taking such action in the future is subject to the up-to-date information on this virus and avoidance of non-essential travel is recommended.

As the Chinese and international efforts to contain the outbreak is continuing, the Ministry of Health (MOH), represented by the Directorate General of Diseases Control & Surveillance continues to monitor the situation and has activated the preparedness plans at the border crossings, and all healthcare institutions to handle suspected cases should such arrive, as well as raising the public awareness about this disease.

The information has been distributed to all health care facilities to be vigilant if people return from China and develop fever and cough with two weeks after leaving China.

The Ministry of Health urges citizens and residents to adhere to the preventive measures, follow the proper healthy habits while traveling to the affected areas and go to the nearest healthcare institution in case of the presence of any of the symptoms with disclosure of the travel history.

For further information on the new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), please contact the MOH call center on 24441999 and follow information from the formal sources and do not pay attention to the rumors.



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