Tag Archives: public health

Wuhan Effectively Quarantined As Coronavirus Estimate Doubles

Wuhan skyline seen in 2018. Photo credit: Majorantarktis. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

THE TEAM AT the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London that first suggested that the numbers of those infected with the Wuhan Coronavirus had been significantly undercounted has now increased to 4,000 its estimate of how many are sick with the virus.

The more than doubling of the original estimate is based on re-running the initial calculations using the now-known higher number of confirmed international cases, which is the basis for the model. The first estimate assumed three known international cases. That number has risen to at least seven. Hong Kong has just reported the first two cases there.

The scientists caution that the doubling of their estimates ‘should not be interpreted as implying the outbreak has doubled in size’, just their estimation of it. Certainly, authorities have increased both detection and reporting in recent days, which is one reason that the reported numbers have been rising rapidly.

The gap between the new estimate and the number of reported and suspected cases suggests the outbreak, even if contained, is far from over, and especially as human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.

Meanwhile, Wuhan has been as good as quarantined with transport within the city shut down, ferries and long-distance buses suspended and the airport and train stations closed, all indefinitely. Authorities had already told people not to travel to or from the city, regardless of the forthcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, called the transport ban a “very strong measure” to control the outbreak domestically and internationally. The WHO’s meeting to decide whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency will continue into a second day.

The latest number of confirmed cases has risen above 500 with 17 deaths, all in or around Wuhan. Insurance policies are being relaxed and supplemented to ensure that cost is not a deterrent to individuals submitting to detection and treatment.

Update: A second city, Huanggang, about 70 kilometres from Wuhan and where there has been a dozen cases reported, is also to be put on lockdown.


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Wuhan Coronavirus Numbers Rise

NEW CASES OF the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak are being reported thick and fast. On January 20, an additional 77 confirmed cases were posted, taking the total to 291 (Update: 440, with an additional 149 new cases confirmed on January 21) in China with 54 suspected instances. The death toll has reached six (Update: nine), all in or around Wuhan.

Additional international cases have now been detected in Taiwan and the United States, with another suspected in Australia. All are travellers who have recently been in Wuhan. North Korea is reportedly intending to shut its borders to foreign tourists to stop the infection spreading in a country whose health services are under extreme stress from international sanctions.

The World Health Organization is due to meet on January 22 to decide whether to label the outbreak an international health emergency. Meanwhile, investors are starting to get nervous about the economic impact of the outbreak.

Beijing is putting in place measures for monitoring and control of the outbreak, such as travel restrictions and mass quarantine, that would be impossible to impose at scale in Western countries. Ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, people have been told not to leave or travel to Wuhan.

Authorities are also cracking down on the trade in wild animals, believed to be the cause of the outbreak at a large market in Wuhan, and warning local officials of the consequences of any cover-ups.

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Wuhan Coronavirus’s Reported Spread Is Increasing

REPORTED CASES OF the new type of Coronavirus first seen in Wuhan in December are rising and spreading. Authorities now say that there have been more than 200 cases, far more than initially reported.

There are now also reports of confirmed or suspected cases in Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan, Yunan, Zhejiang and Shanghai. South Korea joins Thailand and Japan on the list of countries where infected travellers from Wuhan have arrived. The death toll has risen to three. Wuhan officials said on Sunday that nine patients in the city were in critical condition.

The state response is now being co-ordinated at a national level with the National Health Commission and the State Council setting up emergency teams to manage the outbreak.

The reported numbers are still relatively small, but the pathogen’s spread is raising concerns inside and outside China that, having jumped from animals to humans, it has mutated to enable human-to-human transmission. Self-evidently, that increases the risk of the outbreak spreading. The timing, ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, when millions will be travelling, could hardly be worse.

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Wuhan Virus Outbreak Suspected Greater Than Reported

THE OUTBREAK OF a new type of Coronavirus in Wuhan has, it appears, been contained though it is early days to be sure. Authorities say that the outbreak is not sustaining itself, although they cannot rule out that some limited person-to-person spread may be occurring.

In its first public comment, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday that all known cases involving the virus in China were restricted to Wuhan, despite unconfirmed reports of cases in Shanghai and Shenzhen and two known instances in Thailand and one in Japan. Several countries continue to screening incoming travellers from Wuhan.

However, scientists at the MRC Centre of Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College in London have suggested that the extent of the outbreak was far greater than reported.

They base their analysis on models that use the number of cases detected among international travellers who have visited the infected area but are diagnosed with the disease abroad. In this case, the calculations suggest that there were 1,723 cases as of January 12, which, as the UK scientists say, is “substantially more cases of moderate or severe respiratory illness than currently reported”.

The official figure, as of January 16, was 41 cases, including two deaths, one a person with a pre-existing medical condition. (Update: Wuhan’s municipal health commission has subsequently reported further cases, taking the official total to 62 as of January 17.)

Most cases have been linked to the city’s large seafood and animal market, which has been closed for disinfection since January 1st to contain the outbreak (a reminder to trade negotiators of why food health and safety standards are necessary, by the way). None of the three infected international travellers is believed to have visited the market, however.

Coronaviruses occur in animals and humans. Most of the half dozen that have been found in humans cause mild respiratory problems, but there are two killers that cause Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Both of those jumped from animals to humans and then spread among human populations to deadly effect.

China’s national health authorities shared the genome of the new virus internationally once they had decoded it, but there would be, lets us say, a degree of nervousness, among local officials about what they might have had on their hands by way of a potential public health emergency.


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Dog Culls As Rabies Spreads North

For all the outrage over the slaughter of 34,000 dogs in Hanzhong in Shaanxi, rabies has been on the increase in China for some years, to the point where China has the second highest incidence of rabies in the world after India.

The disease was relatively under control until 1996 thanks to a nationwide vaccination program, according to research by Jia-Hai Lu, from the School of Public Health at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, when 159 cases of rabies were reported. That figure rose to more than 3,000 cases by 2006, with incidents concentrated in southwestern and southern China (more background on the study.) A rise in pet ownership and low levels of anti-rabies vaccinations are blamed. Mao might have considered owning a dog as bourgeois, but that was then.

In 2006, there were dog culls in Mouding, a county in Yunnan province, and in Jining, the provincial capital of Shandong, much as millions of ducks and chickens have been slaughtered for fear of bird flu. Not much of a public health policy.

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