Health authorities in Wuhan, China, suspect that unexplained pneumonia cases somehow originated in a local seafood market. Image: SleepingPanda via Shutterstock

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that Chinese authorities have made an initial identification of a new coronavirus connected to recent cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, China. As of Thursday, January 9, 2020, the WHO does not recommend “any specific measures for travelers” … and “advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China based on the information currently available.”

To date, reports from China indicate 15 of the 59 suspected cases have tested positive and 7 have been designated as being critical. Only 25 of the 59 have been cleared and discharged. Health officials have indicated that while serious, this novel strain is not as severe as other recently identified coronaviruses, specifically SARS-CoV (2002) and MERS-CoV (2012). Existing medications used to combat the latter two strains may prove effective against the new virus; however, further testing is required.

Health officials are still investigating the source and transmission method but have already linked several cases to a fish market in Wuhan City where reptile and game meat was also sold – the market is now closed. Chinese authorities announced [through the WHO] that there is no evidence that this virus is “readily transmit[ed]” through human to human contact.

VIGILINT recommends pre-planning and action to mitigate traveler health risk. As with such diseases, consider that certain travelers or their companions may have a higher risk of infection: people with compromised immune systems, the elderly and the young. For your organization’s potential action:

  •  Monitor and track the disease with travelers’ destinations/locations in mind
  • Develop an emergency communication and alert strategy specific to this incident
  • Communicate now with potentially impacted students, employees, contractors, and stakeholders as to when and where they should treat medical emergencies
  • Inform travelers to dine at reputable establishments and to consume well-cooked and properly prepared foods
  • Advise travelers and expatriates, who may be cooking, to avoid shopping at fish and meat markets – especially game meats
  • Reassess current strategy if human to human transmission is confirmed