On the 31st December 2019, the World Health Organization was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Less than two weeks later a novel coronavirus (2019n-CoV) was identified as the cause. Early on, many of the cases in Wuhan were reported to have a link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of cases did not appear to have had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread.
At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people. There is much to learn and investigations are ongoing; as of 31st January (a month on from the initial report), almost 10,000 confirmed cases have been reported across all provinces in China with over 100 from outside mainland China (over 20 countries including the UK). Of concern, some healthcare workers have also been reported to be infected. Fortunately the UK has an excellent track record in dealing with high consequence infectious disease, and has already demonstrated its expertise in response to diseases like MERS, Ebola and Monkeypox.
As occupational health professionals, regardless of your area of work, it is likely that you have been asked about this emerging infection. Whether you are providing guidance on travel restrictions or repatriation of staff in affected areas, or fielding queries about returned travellers it is vital to keep up to date with the most current and correct advice. Fortunately, for 2019n-CoV a range of resources are available as outlined below:
Travel Health Advice
The National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) produces news alerts with the latest travel guidance for both travellers and those advising travellers. It also has an outbreak surveillance database which will give details of the case numbers in China, but also information on imported cases elsewhere. This information can be found on NaTHNaC’s website TravelHealthPro at https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/
Public Health Advice
Public Health England (PHE) has a suite of guidance documents and information including the latest epidemiology, infection prevention and control measures, and guidance on post travel management. These documents can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/wuhan-novel-coronavirus
World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
British Medical Journal resource centre
The Lancet coronavirus resource centre
Update - February 13th 2020
The Royal College of Physicians, London yesterday held an expert update on the 2019-nCoV outbreak, featuring a series of short presentations on the current status and future global projections. The webcast stream from the event is here. On the stream, the presentations begin at 31:30 mins and the panel Q&A at 2hrs 12 mins - the panel session is particularly pertinent.