Malawi set for coronavirus outbreak

Kamuzu International Airport

Malawi has announced that it has put in place precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus following World Health Organisation (WHO) warning of a possible global outbreak.

The never-before-seen virus detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan has already claimed 80 lives and infected more than 2,000 Chinese citizens with a pneumonia-like illness.

The new virus, temporarily named 2019-nCoV (novel coronavirus), has been categorized as a coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

On Friday, WHO Emergency Committee urged made a recommendation for screening at airports and active surveillance measures as part of a comprehensive set of containment measures.

The committee has since called on all countries to “be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection”.

Malawi, through Ministry of Health, announced that it has mounted health screening protocols for the vireus at airports for people arriving from abroad.

“The ministry is briefing its health workers on how to suspect and manage the disease and its hospitals are ready to manage patients suffering from the disease” spokesperson for Ministry of Health has been quoted as saying.

Confirmed cases

Authorities have confirmed more than 2,700 cases as of yesterday. The bulk are in China, with a total of 17 cases reported in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Other cases have been reported in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia and the United States.

Here’s the breakdown as it stands:

  • China: 2,744, with 769 of those newly confirmed in the 24 hours through midnight Sunday. Five are in Hong Kong and two in Macao. Nearly all of the 80 deaths have been in Hubei province, with four elsewhere in China
  • Thailand: 8 confirmed cases
  • US: 5 confirmed cases
  • Australia: 5 confirmed cases
  • Japan: 4 confirmed cases
  • Malaysia: 4 confirmed cases
  • Singapore: 4 confirmed cases
  • France: 3 confirmed cases
  • South Korea: 4confirmed cases
  • Vietnam: 2 confirmed cases
  • Canada: 1 presumptive case
  • Nepal: 1 confirmed case
  • Taiwan: 3

The World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has traveled to Beijing to hold a special meeting with officials to discuss how to contain the coronavir.

Preventive Measures: WHO Recommendations

With confirmed cases now seen in several other countries, it is feared the virus could be spreading much further afield.

The WHO recommends a range of measures to protect yourself from contracting the disease, based on good hand hygiene and good respiratory.

WHO’s standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows, which include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.