Preparedness update: coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China

In light of the ongoing novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a Division of the National Health Laboratory Service, has put in place systems to rapidly identify and detect any imported cases in South Africa. As from 23 January, there have been no cases of the 2019-nCoV in South Africa or on the African continent.

Together with the National Department of Health, the NICD has developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions for doctors and nurses in both the public and the private sectors to better detect, identify and respond to a possible 2019-nCoV case.

It also includes guidance on what samples to collect to confirm the diagnosis as well as how to best manage the case clinically and to prevent spread to others while the diagnosis is being made. There are several additional resources on standby to enhance optimal response; these include placing the Emergency Operations Centre in alert mode, which could be activated should the need arise. Furthermore, South Africa has in place fever screening at ports of entry, guidance documents including the case definitions and what to do should a suspected case be identified have been distributed to staff at the ports.

Situational update on the outbreak

The World Health Organization China country office reported a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown origin in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China on 31 December 2019. The cause has since been confirmed as a novel coronavirus. Chinese health authorities have confirmed limited human-to-human transmission and 15 healthcare workers are reported to have been infected in Wuhan.

As of 22 January 2020, 571 cases have been confirmed; including 17 deaths have been reported in Wuhan City in China. There have been 7 exported cases of which 4 to Thailand, 1 to Japan, 1 to South Korea and 1 to the United States. The majority of the cases from Wuhan were epidemiologically linked to a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market (Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market) in Jianghan District of Hubei Province. This suggests that the novel coronavirus has a possible zoonotic origin. Most of the cases with clinical data available experienced mild to moderate symptoms. The cases reported from outside Wuhan had links in Wuhan, contact with a sick person in Wuhan worked, or visited a market in Wuhan. There have been no transmission events from the exported cases.

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