With fear gripping travelers to and from China, over the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus in that country, Ghanaian health authorities led by the Ministry of Health, are yet to make any pronouncement on the matter.
Some media organizations, have travelled getting the Health Ministry to spell out any emergency plan for the contagious disease which emerged in China in December last year, and causes respiratory symptoms such as pneumonia, with over 300 cases infection and some deaths reported in some Chinese provinces.
The virus has heightened concerns all over the world, and with the huge number Ghanaians travelers, including business people to China, as well as Chinese visitors to Ghana, many had expected some emergency plans rollout at the KIA , but this is yet to come, despite the threat to humans.
The situation was different during the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus few years ago, which saw monitoring, screening and detection devices mounted at the KIA for people entering the country to go through.
Interestingly, on Monday, President Xi Jinping, gave an interview to the state-run Xinhua News Agency in which he called on officials to “release outbreak information in a timely manner and deepen international cooperation.” Cases have been reported outside China in Japan, Thailand and South Korea in individuals who had visited Wuhan.
Yesterday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was expected to announce the first case of Wuhan coronavirus reported in the United States, in Washington state, a federal source outside the CDC tells CNN.
The novel virus, which was first identified last month in Wuhan, China, has so far infected more than 300 people and killed six, in an outbreak that has been reported in five countries including the United States.
Meanwhile, new information is emerging about the new coronavirus in China and Chinese authorities report that the total caseload is rising.
In addition, authorities in Wuhan, where the virus was first reported, confirmed a third death but did not release details except to say that the three victims, all men, had prior illnesses.
Health authorities believe that the virus probably originated from an unidentified animal species and was transmitted to humans by contact with animals at a live animal market in the central city of Wuhan.
The World Health Organization also tweeted on January 19: “An animal source seems the most likely primary source of this novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, with some limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts.”
On Monday, Zhong Nanshan, the epidemiologist who leads the committee on the outbreak for China’s National Health Commission, gave a TV interview stating there was evidence of human-to-human transmission.
China’s National Health Commission also confirmed that there has been infection of medical staff.
The World Health Organization will convene an Emergency Committee on Wednesday to determine if the outbreak “constitutes a public health emergency of international concern” — and if so, what measures should be taken.
Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, notes that “We don’t have evidence of clusters in distant geographic locations as we did with SARS. This is what we would anticipate if the virus were highly transmissible.”
Lipkin, who assisted the World Health Organization and China during the 2003 outbreak of SARS, which is also a coronavirus, says that the symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus — fever, cough and difficulty breathing — are similar to the symptoms for SARS, which originated in southern China in 2002, infected more than 7,000 people globally and caused some 800 deaths before the outbreak ended the following year. Since 2004, there have been no known cases of SARS, according to the CDC.
Another coronavirus of concern, MERS, emerged in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, appears to spread less easily between people. To date it has infected some 2,500 people and caused approximately 850 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
There are no approved vaccines to prevent these diseases, says Lipkin. “If you have good diagnostic tests and can identify people and animals that have been infected, you can isolate them and contain an outbreak,” he says. “That’s something that’s already being done in Wuhan by closing the seafood market. But once things start spreading from human to human, it becomes more difficult to [contain the outbreak].”