Mysterious coronavirus not spreading to new areas, says WHO

The outbreak of a respiratory illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus in Wuhan is not spreading to new areas and no human-to-human transmission has been reported, said the World Health Organization (WHO).  

Initially, 59 patients were suspected to be infected with the virus. Later, 41 were confirmed to be suffering from the coronavirus that killed one during the course of treatment. Seven patients are still in critical condition, six have been discharged from the hospital. 

The outbreak reportedly occurred from the local Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which was closed down on January 1. Quarantine operations of the shops and sewage are underway.

"Currently, no case with infection of this novel coronavirus has been reported elsewhere other than Wuhan," the WHO said in a statement on Sunday. 

The National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China provided detailed information related to the outbreak, including the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus, to the WHO on January 11 and 12. 

"The genetic sequence will be of great importance for other countries to use in developing specific diagnostic kits."

Human-to-human transmission

According to investigations, medical staff, frequent visitors and handlers of the infected persons show "no clear evidence that the virus passes easily from person to person." 

Around 763 people who were in close contact with the patients, including healthcare workers, have been identified and are being closely monitored. An extensive public awareness drive has also been launched as a measure of self-protection. 

No new cases have been detected since January 3.

The virus is responsible for causing deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), avian influenza and adenovirus. But the investigations rule out the presence of any of these respiratory pathogens.

No travel and trade restriction

Since Wuhan is a major domestic and international transport hub, authorities are carrying out regular inspections and health checks to contain the outbreak. The WHO has not issued any travel or trade restrictions due to the outbreak. 

The infection might cause a range of health complications, from fever, cough to kidney failure and even death. 

People residing in the affected area should regularly wash their hands, cover mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing. Meat and eggs should be thoroughly cooked, the WHO recommended.

(Top Image: A health surveillance officer with temperature scanner waits for passengers at the Hong Kong International airport in Hong Kong, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. /AP Photo)