The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised the Travel Advisory Warning to Level 3 (Avoid Nonessential Travel) to Wuhan City, China, due to the ongoing outbreak of the novel respiratory coronavirus known as 2019-nCoV. As part of the Chinese Emergency Preparedness Plan, officials have closed transport in and out of Wuhan, including the Wuhan Tihane International Airport, bus and subways systems and local rail services. Other cities in the Hubei province that have implemented travel restrictions include Ezhou, Huanggang, Xiantao, Chibi, and Qianjiang. Officials in Beijing have canceled all large scale Lunar New Year festivities in an effort to reduce mass gatherings and contain the virus.
The outbreak that began in Wuhan last month can be transmitted human-to-human, and has seen significant and rapid expansion. There are now confirmed cases in Hong Kong and Macao and in countries including Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and one case in the United States – a man in his thirties who traveled to Wuhan. and has been reported to be in stable condition.
As of issue, there are four people being tested for the illness in the UK. Given the rapid spread of the illness, the CDC’s public health screenings on airline passengers from areas of reported cases will likely increase. Screenings have already been implemented from travelers coming from Wuhan at San Fransisco (SFO), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), Atlanta (ATL) and Chicago (ORD) airports. Both the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have released statements that the coronavirus is a serious public health concern and has enacted emergency response centers and committees to support the response to 2019-nCoV. The WHO announced today that the virus is not yet a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), but that there is urgency to the situation and the “emergency committee will regroup in a matter of days to examine the situation further.”
For travelers, VIGILINT recommends:
Organizations and individual travelers will need to be aware of delays at major international airports, and, if traveling from an area where cases of the coronavirus has been confirmed, prepare to be screened if the CDC enacts public health entry screenings at additional airports. Chinese authorities have reported 600+ confirmed cases and 18 deaths from the 2019-nCoV outbreak. Given the high number of US business travelers in and out of the region, organizations and travelers should prepare for added time at any APAC (Asian Pacific Countries) airport due to increased security and delays.
For organizations with expected business travel in that region, consider implementing a personal protective equipment (PPE) program to minimize exposure to the coronavirus. PPE gear includes protective gloves, masks, safety glasses and shoes. If PPE is used, it is important to develop and execute an implementation plan as to when and where the gear should be utilized.
From VIGILINT Emergency Physician, Eric W. Ossmann, MD, FACEP:
“Organizations need to maintain awareness of the coronavirus situation, monitor and track the disease with travelers’ destinations and facility locations in mind. Developing a preemptive emergency preparedness plan will be crucial before such trigger events like a rapid increase in 2019-nCoV cases in cities where business is done occurs.”