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Assist Alert: Coronavirus Update #1

Chinese Authorities Take Extreme Measures to Contain Coronavirus Days Before the Lunar New Year

January 22, 2020
Authorities shutting down public transportation in Wuhan


Chinese authorities just quarantined Wuhan, the capital city of Central China’s Hubei Province. As of Wednesday night, authorities have officially shut down all air and train traffic coming out of Wuhan. Ferry, subway, and bus services are also suspended. The city of 11 million inhabitants is now officially on lock-down for the indefinite future.


This coronavirus is part of a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Other kinds like this outbreak, or SARS and MERS, have evolved to more dangerous illnesses. Government officials have confirmed that this new coronavirus originates from a seafood market in Wuhan where wild animals were sold illegally. At least two cases are confirmed to have spread from human to human, hinting at the possibility that the virus is mutating and may become more easily transmissible among humans. So far, more than 550 cases have been confirmed, most of them being in China and a handful of cases confirmed in nearby countries including South Korea, Thailand, and Japan. The CDC in the U.S. has also confirmed one case in Washington State with a patient who had traveled from Wuhan. The death toll was also raised today to 17.   



The illness has triggered massive domestic response and international anxiety with people around the world remembering the dramatic consequences of the SARS virus which killed over 800 people and infected thousands in the early 2000s. The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon to review all information and evidence. However, in the following press conference, officials announced they would postpone their decision whether to declare the virus a global health emergency to Thursday. 


The timing of this new coronavirus could not come at a worst time as people across China celebrate their most important holiday of the year, the Lunar New Year. This week-long holiday represents the busiest travel season for the country with hundreds of millions of people expected to travel across mainland China.


The World Health Organization stated basic measures to prevent contracting the virus include avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections, frequent hand-washing and avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals. Travelers should stay up-to-date with the ongoing situation and containment procedures and follow authorities’ instructions. 
The WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travelers yet. If you are experiencing symptoms of acute respiratory illness during or after travel, you should seek medical attention and share your detailed travel history with your health care provider. If you were planning to travel to Wuhan or the Hubei Province, contact your airlines or travel agent to cancel your trip. 
Members of Assist America who are currently traveling to the region and are experiencing symptoms of respiratory infection can contact our Operations Center for help in locating medical facilities to seek diagnosis and treatment as necessary.