INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — IMG’s Chief Medical Officer (Dr. Geoff Tothill, MB, BS, FRCP Edin.) shares his latest thoughts on the coronavirus below:
“The spread of the novel coronavirus within China represents a continuing health emergency for that country. We continue to see cases arising in other countries. Overwhelmingly those ‘exported’ cases are in people who have travelled from China. There have been cases of human to human spread outside China, but it is thought that close contact is required for this to occur. Only time will tell if case numbers grow around the world and it is hoped that the extensive efforts to control spread will be effective. Despite a huge amount of media coverage, it is important to keep this outbreak in perspective. Seasonal flu remains a far more significant risk to public health and the simple measures outlined above can go a long way to reduce your chance of catching the virus.”
The first case of a new virus that causes respiratory disease was reported to the World Health Organization China Office on December 31st, 2019, having been detected in Wuhan City (population 19 million), Hubei Province of China. Since then, the numbers of people infected in China increased as it spread to almost every province. At the time of writing, there are 11,822 confirmed cases in mainland China and 142 in 25 other countries around the world.
What is the coronavirus?
The virus (scientific name 2019-nCoV) comes from a family of viruses called coronavirus. It is thought that this virus was originally prevalent in animals and jumped to humans. Coronaviruses also caused the SARS and MERS outbreaks.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms are like those of an upper respiratory infection. You may have a cough, sore throat, and fever. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please speak with your health provider. Most infections are relatively mild but a small percentage, especially in the elderly and those with pre-existing disease, can progress to more severe disease.
A public health emergency of global concern
On January 30th, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a public health emergency of global concern. This declaration is made under strict criteria and is ‘an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease, and to potentially require a coordinated international response’. In assigning this status, consideration is given to a range of factors that include assessment of the risk to human health, risk of international spread of disease, and risk of interference with international traffic.
How can I protect myself from infection?
Probably the most effective protective measure is regular hand washing and both the CDC and WHO have good advice on their websites. Other protective steps include coughing into the crook of your elbow (catching your sneeze), use of alcohol gels, avoiding large public gatherings, and teleworking where possible in affected areas.
Are my travel plans affected?
It depends – airlines in North America, Europe and Asia have suspended flights to China. Delta Airlines has suspended all flights from U.S. to China beginning February 6th – April 30th. Cruise lines are also cancelling and rerouting several ships.
Over 60 countries have announced immigration control for Chinese citizens entering their countries. Countries including Russia, Pakistan, and Vietnam have enacted border closings with China.
The U.S. State Department has issued a level 4 travel advisory – do not travel. Several other countries have issued travel advisories, but they focus on Wuhan, not the entire mainland of China.
About International Medical Group (IMG)
International Medical Group® (IMG®), a Sirius Group company, is an award-winning global insurance benefits and assistance services company that has served millions of members worldwide since its founding in 1990. A leader in the global benefits and assistance services industry, IMG offers a full line of international medical insurance products, as well as travel insurance plans, medical management services, and 24/7 emergency medical and travel assistance. For more information, please visit www.imglobal.com.