CDC Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Travel Alert Issued For China’s ‘Novel Coronavirus’ Outbreak

Travelers to Wuhan China should avoid animals and sick people says the CDC

Wuhan buildings

A Travel Alert has been issued regarding the pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The preliminary information has identified this outbreak to be caused by a novel coronavirus (nCoV), now called 2019-nCoV.

All of the characteristics of this virus and how it may affect people are still unclear said the CDC on January 11, 2020.

On January 10th, Chinese health officials reported 41 cases of pneumonia. Seven of these patients had a severe illness and 1 related fatality has been confirmed.

And, health authorities in China are monitoring the health status of more than 700 close contacts, including healthcare workers.

This pneumonia (nCoV) outbreak was identified between December 8, 2019, and January 2, 2020. The good news is there have been no new cases reported since January 3rd.

This CDC’s Level 1 Alert indicates that most of these cases had links to seafood and live animal market located in Wuhan. This market has been closed since January 1, 2020.

The CDC says ‘travelers to Wuhan, China, should avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and contact with sick people.’

Wuhan is the capital of Central China’s Hubei province and is a commercial center divided by the Yangtze and Han rivers.

Media reports indicate several countries and territories in the area, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and the Amur Region of Russia, are screening incoming travelers from Wuhan, China.

The Philippines indicated they are screening arriving passengers for high-temperatures at select airports. 

Should an airport scanner detect a body temperature of 36.5 degrees Celsius or higher, the passenger will be led to the quarantine bureau for further evaluation, said a CNN report. 

But, as of January 9th, 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.

There are several known human coronaviruses that usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold, says the CDC.

However, at least twice previously, coronaviruses have emerged to infect people and cause severe diseases, such as has been seen with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

As of this posting, the Wuhan, China Municipal Health Commission reported case-patients in the outbreak had fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and bilateral lung infiltrates on chest radiograph. 

For patients with similar features who traveled to Wuhan on or after December 1, 2019, and had onset of illness within 2 weeks of leaving, healthcare providers should consider pneumonia related to the novel coronavirus outbreak in China and notify infection control personnel and your local health department immediately, says the CDC.

Although the transmission dynamics have yet to be determined, the CDC recommends a cautious approach to symptomatic patients with a history of travel to Wuhan. 

Ask such patients to wear a surgical mask as soon as they are identified. Conduct their evaluation in a private room with the door closed. Personnel entering the room to evaluate the patient should use contact precautions, wear an N95 disposable facepiece respirator, and use eye protection. 

For patients admitted for inpatient care, implement contact and airborne isolation precautions, in addition to standard precautions, until further information becomes available. 

Furthermore, since this situation is evolving, the CDC will update this Travel Alert as more information becomes available. For infection control guidance, visit the CDC’s Infection Control webpage.

The CDC does identify various vaccines international travelers should discuss with a healthcare provider prior to visiting China.

International health and vaccination news published by Vax-Before-Travel.

UPDATE:  On January 13, 2020, the Thailand Ministry of Public Health confirmed that a Chinese woman infected with the novel coronavirus traveled from Wuhan to Thailand 5 days earlier, arriving on January 8. During entry screening, she was identified by Thai health officials and admitted to an infectious diseases hospital that same day. This traveler represents the first known exported case of the novel coronavirus.