Report 1: London, 18 February 2020
The current outbreak of coronavirus was first reported from Wuhan, China, on 31 December 2019. The new strain of virus is referred to as 2019-nCoV, sometimes called COVID-19.
There is nothing unusual about coronaviruses. The term refers to a large family of viruses which cause illness from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. The animal source of the 2019-nCoV has not yet been identified although it is likely to have orginated from a live animal market in China.
World health authorities are learning how the new strain 2019-nCoV affects people. As with other respiratory illnesses, infection with 2019-nCoV can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. For some people it can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. The current evidence so far is that older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more at risk of developing severe disease. For some it can be fatal.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is working closely with global experts, governments and partners to rapidly expand scientific knowledge on this new virus, to track the spread and virulence of it, and to provide advice to countries and individuals on measures to protect health and prevent the spread of this outbreak.
Coronavirus and Latin America
To date there have been no reported cases of coronavirus in Central or South America.
A series of two-day training sessions has been instigated as part of the effort to ensure that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are prepared to carry out laboratory diagnosis of the new coronavirus. Training by WHO partners the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Mexican Ministry of Health’s Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference (InDRE) was carried out from 12-13 February in Mexico City and was attended by virologists from 6 Central American countries (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua), as well as from Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The training was also attended by virologists from public health laboratories in Baja California, Jalisco and Quintana Roo in order to increase and expand Mexico’s capacity to respond.
The training sessions in Mexico follow on from PAHO-led training in Brazil, in collaboration with Fiocruz and the Ministry of Health, for 9 countries in Latin America (Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay), as well as in Venezuela.
Training has also been held in the Caribbean, including in Suriname, Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica and Dominica. This will continue in the sub-region next week with laboratory training in Bahamas and Guyana. The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has also informed that its laboratory is ready to respond to the new coronavirus, and the Institut Pasteur of French Guiana is also operational for supporting surveillance in French territories of the Caribbean.
By 21 February 2020 a total of 29 laboratories in the region will be ready to detect coronavirus.
Revealed Travel will continue to endeavour to publish accurate information about the coronavirus on our websites.
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