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Wuhan is QUARANTINED: Ground Zero Chinese city for fatal coronavirus halts all travel in and out as the disease MUTATES with 17 dead and 10,000 now infected

Deadly coronavirus outbreak DID start at Wuhan animal market

  • China's Centre for Disease Control, Prevention confirmed outbreak's epicentre
  • Market was home to stalls trading snakes, wolf pups, foxes, rats and peacocks
  • Epidemic has so far claimed lives of more than 80 people and infected 3,000

The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at a wholesale animal market in Wuhan city, experts have confirmed.

Scientists from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market.

It is not clear which animal was carrying the pneumonia-like illness but the market was home to stalls trading dozens of different species, including rats and wolf cubs. 

Last week experts suggested the disease may have originated in snakes, which are known carriers of coronaviruses. 

The Huanan market was a hotspot with locals, who could choose to buy their meat 'warm' meaning it had been slaughtered just moment prior.   

The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market in Wuhan (pictured), tests confirm

The deadly Chinese coronavirus outbreak began at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market in Wuhan (pictured), tests confirm

Scientists from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the market where customers chose from live animals that were slaughtered in front of them (picture purportedly shows skinned chicks at the market)

Scientists from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said tests proved humans caught it from animals at the market where customers chose from live animals that were slaughtered in front of them (picture purportedly shows skinned chicks at the market)

Last week experts suggested the disease may have originated in snakes, which are known carriers of coronaviruses (multiple reptiles at the market)

Last week experts suggested the disease may have originated in snakes, which are known carriers of coronaviruses (multiple reptiles at the market)

Image shows what appears to be a beaver and a small deer caged at Huanan

Image shows what appears to be a beaver and a small deer caged at Huanan

A police officer stands guard outside of Huanan Seafood Wholesale market in Wuhan

'Thirty-one of the 33 positive samples were collected from the western zone of the market, where booths of wildlife trading concentrated,' the CDC said, according to China's state-owned Xinhua news agency.   

'The result suggests that the novel coronavirus outbreak is highly relevant to the trading of wild animals.' 

The epidemic has so far claimed the lives of more than 80 people and infected nearly 3,000 in a month - but experts predict that number to be closer to 100,000.

Chinese authorities temporarily barred the trading of wild animals on Sunday. The Government said those who ignored the ban would be 'severely investigated and punished'.
Public health experts had previously warned that China's live animal markets were the perfect breeding ground for emerging infectious diseases.
A total of 15 countries or territories outside of China have now confirmed cases, with Sri Lanka and Cambodia the latest to announce and a second case diagnosed in Canada today, in the wife of the Toronto man who was the first patient. 
Coronavirus: The confirmed cases around the world

The coronavirus outbreak has now killed 82 people and struck down more than 2,800. Cambodia today became the latest country to confirm the virus has spread there. The government confirmed a Chinese national who travelled to the city of Sihanoukville was infected

The coronavirus outbreak has now killed 82 people and struck down more than 2,800. Cambodia today became the latest country to confirm the virus has spread there. The government confirmed a Chinese national who travelled to the city of Sihanoukville was infected

Medical staff in Wuhan, the crisis-hit city at the centre of the outbreak, help a patient off the back of an ambulance on Sunday

Medical staff in Wuhan, the crisis-hit city at the centre of the outbreak, help a patient off the back of an ambulance on Sunday

Thermal scanning at Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport in Indonesia shows people's temperatures beside their heads – those who have high temperatures will be checked to see if they have a fever

Thermal scanning at Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport in Indonesia shows people's temperatures beside their heads – those who have high temperatures will be checked to see if they have a fever

The rapid-build hospital in Wuhan started to take shape today, January 27, as hundreds of people work tirelessly to build the pre-fabricated structure in a matter of days

The rapid-build hospital in Wuhan started to take shape today, January 27, as hundreds of people work tirelessly to build the pre-fabricated structure in a matter of days

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Coronavirus outbreak linked to bat soup sold at Wuhan market

CORONAVIRUS: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.
But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can it kill?

Yes. Eighty-one people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.

How is it detected?

The virus's genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.

To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.

Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.

Is it similar to anything we've ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere 

Beijing also today saw the Wuhan coronavirus claim its 82nd death when a 50-year-old man died in hospital in the nation's capital at around 8pm local time (12pm GMT). 

China has extended its New Year holiday by three days to February 2 to fight the outbreak as people have now been diagnosed with it in every corner of China, except for Tibet.
A team of scientists in the UK believe more than 100,000 people have been infected already but many of them without knowing, and expect the case and death tolls both to continue rising as the outbreak goes on.    
The damage has spread to the stock markets, too, as investors fear travel cancellations and business closures, as well as growing panic outside of China, are damaging the world economy.
Researchers in Hong Kong have warned the outbreak could become a 'global epidemic' if the Chinese government doesn't start 'draconian' travel restrictions on its citizens.

Beijing insists it is continuing drastic efforts to contain the outbreak. 

New cases today include the first to be diagnosed in Cambodia, in a Chinese national, and a second in Toronto, Canada, where the wife of the first Canadian patient is now being treated for coronavirus.

The disease's spread has seemed all but unstoppable over the last week, and scientists at Hong Kong University say more drastic action needs to be taken.

There is a risk the virus could trigger a global epidemic – when the illness spreads uncontrollably around the world – if the Chinese government doesn't clamp down on the movement of people, the researchers said.

'We have to be prepared that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic,' said Dr Gabriel Leung.

'Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken sooner, rather than later.'

Concerns about the virus have been growing as scientists say people may be passing on the virus before they even realise they are ill, and the number of predicted cases has soared dramatically.

China's health minister Ma Xiaowei said yesterday 'it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger' and that it can be passed from person-to-person even before symptoms appear.   

And researchers at Imperial College London have estimated that more than 100,000 people may be infected around the world already. The same team had previously thought the number was around 4,000, up to 10,000.

Professor Mark Harris, from the University of Leeds, said: 'Its true that the numbers... look scary. 

'One positive spin is that if we are only aware of five per cent of the total cases, the implication is that 95 per cent of cases have only resulted in either mild symptoms such that the infected people did not consider it serious enough to seek medical help, or indeed the virus may be causing an inapparent infection. 

'This would significantly reduce the apparent [death] rates.' 

The mayor of Wuhan, where the outbreak started, has admitted he and the ruling Chinese Communist Party did not react quickly enough to the coronavirus danger.

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Drone footage shows second coronavirus hospital being built

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Wuhan is QUARANTINED: Ground zero for deadly coronavirus halts all travel in AND out of

  • No one will be allowed to enter or leave Wuhan beginning 10am Thursday 
  • Quarantine was announced Wednesday as Chinese officials warned that the deadly new virus is mutating and becoming increasingly difficult to control
  • CDC officials in the US have launched a plan to 'funnel' air passengers from Wuhan through five major airports to try to halt the spread
  • Screening checkpoints for coronavirus are in place at Los Angeles International Airport, New York's JFK airport and San Francisco International Airport
  • Additional checkpoints are being set up at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago and Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta  
  • The new strain of coronavirus has killed 17 and sickened at least 532 worldwide
  • The SARS-like disease was first reported in China late last month before spreading to Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and the United States
  • The first US case was diagnosed in Washington state on Tuesday
  • The virus is thought to have spread to humans from a seafood market 'which illegally traded wild animals' in Wuhan  
  • Experts say its possible up to 10,000 people in China alone have been exposed 
  • World Health Organization officials met Wednesday to decide whether to declare the outbreak a 'public health emergency of international concern'
  • Members' opinions were 'split' and the committee will reconvene Thursday 

The Chinese city of Wuhan has been placed under quarantine in an effort to stop the spread of the killer coronavirus believed to have originated there.  

No one will be allowed to enter or leave Wuhan, a city of 11 million in China's Hubei province, beginning 10am Thursday, just ahead of Saturday's Lunar New Year, which marks one of the country's busiest travel seasons.  

The quarantine was announced through state-run media Wednesday as Chinese officials warned that the deadly new virus is mutating and becoming increasingly difficult to control. 

Following confirmation of the first American case - a Washington state man in his 30s - on Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began to 'funnel' all inbound passengers from Wuhan to five major US airports equipped to screen for the virus. 

The coronavirus, a SARS-like disease, has killed 17 and sickened at least 532 people worldwide - including in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the US - since the first cases were reported in Wuhan in late December. 

International concern has grown with the revelation that the virus spreads not just from animals to people, but between people. Its spread seems to be picking up speed, with some estimating up to 10,000 in China are already infected. 

Despite branding Wuhan's measure to contain the outbreak 'strong', World Health Organization (WHO) officials on Wednesday declined to call the new coronavirus an international emergency, instead delaying global recommendations until they reconvene Thursday. 

Scroll down for video 

The Chinese city of Wuhan has been placed under quarantine in an effort to stop the spread of the killer coronavirus believed to have originated there. Pictured: Security personnel check the temperature of passengers in the Wharf at the Yangtze River in Wuhan on Wednesday

The Chinese city of Wuhan has been placed under quarantine in an effort to stop the spread of the killer coronavirus believed to have originated there. Pictured: Security personnel check the temperature of passengers in the Wharf at the Yangtze River in Wuhan on Wednesday

The virus is said to have originated at a seafood market in Wuhan before spreading across the country, and then to Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and the US. Seventeen people have died from the virus and at least 550 have been sickened by it worldwide as of Wednesday

The virus is said to have originated at a seafood market in Wuhan before spreading across the country, and then to Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and the US. Seventeen people have died from the virus and at least 550 have been sickened by it worldwide as of Wednesday

The virus, called 2019-nCoV, is thought to have spread into humans from a Wuhan seafood market 'which illegally traded wild animals' before travelers carried it to at least five other countries, including the US. 

American officials set up screening checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport, New York's John F Kennedy airport and San Francisco International Airport last week. 

New checkpoints are being installed at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago and Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta by the end of this week. 

WHO officials met Wednesday to decide whether to declare the outbreak a 'public health emergency of international concern', but members' opinions were 'split' and the committee will continue deliberations on Thursday.  

Experts say its possible up to 10,000 people in China alone have been exposed to the virus, which is from the same family that caused previous outbreaks of SARS and MERS, killing hundreds of people in dozens of countries. 

This picture released by the Central Hospital of Wuhan shows a medic donning full-body hazardous material suit looking after one patient who has been infected by a new deadly virus

This picture released by the Central Hospital of Wuhan shows a medic donning full-body hazardous material suit looking after one patient who has been infected by a new deadly virus

A suspected coronavirus patient was carried out of an airport in Huizhou, China, in a plastic tube on Wednesday to avoid exposing medical workers to the virus

A suspected coronavirus patient was carried out of an airport in Huizhou, China, in a plastic tube on Wednesday to avoid exposing medical workers to the virus


US health officials warn they do not know how coronavirus may evolve 
US RESPONSE TO THE OUTBREAK

Dr Martin Cetron, director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control, described the US plan to control the spread of coronavirus following a media briefing confirming the first American case on Tuesday.

Dr Martin Cetron (pictured), director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control, described the plan following a media briefing on Tuesday where officials confirmed the first American case

Dr Martin Cetron (pictured), director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control, described the plan following a media briefing on Tuesday where officials confirmed the first American case

Given how quickly the virus has spread, Cetron said the CDC has instructed the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Department to redirect anyone who tries to get from Wuhan to the US without going through any of those five airports. 

Cetron described funneling as 'a very complex process that involves reissuing tickets and rerouting passengers from all over the globe through connecting indirect flights'. 

'With increasing cases, we decided to move into this full-on, 100 percent coverage strategy, which means adding additional airports and ... begin our funneling approach and redirect all the traffic to airports that have screening so that the benefit of the alert could be more completely covered,' Cetron said. 

CDC officials have also suggested the possibility of redirecting entire flights inbound from China through airports with screening checkpoints. 

Taking no risks: Family arrive at Atlatna Hartsfield Airport wearing protective masks as the coronavirus spreads

Taking no risks: Family arrive at Atlatna Hartsfield Airport wearing protective masks as the coronavirus spreads 

Two fire trucks at Atlanta  Airport
A US Border and Protection cruiser

A US Border and Protection cruiser was spotted along with unmarked vehicles, and two fire trucks today at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport 

When a traveler is sent for a screening in the US, they are first required to take a survey about possible symptoms, such as cough or fever, as well as whether they visited the meat or seafood markets in Wuhan that have been tied to the outbreak.  

If they appear to have any symptoms associated with coronavirus, they are taken to on-site triage for further examination and a temperature check.  

Two passengers flying from Shanghai on United Airlines were reportedly examined at O'Hare on Tuesday after appearing to show symptoms of coronavirus, the airline said.   

It's unclear what led officials to single out the passengers, but they were both cleared and released after examination.

'We continue to follow CDC guidelines and remain in close contact with authorities in the United States and Asia to further ensure the safety of our customers and employees,' a United spokesperson told CNBC. 

President Donald Trump addressed the deadly new virus during remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, early Wednesday morning. 

He praised the CDC's rapid response and said the situation is being handled 'very well'.   

'The CDC has been terrific, very great professionals. We're in very good shape and I think China is in very good shape also,' Trump said.  

The president added in an interview with CNBC's 'Squawk Box' that he was 'not at all' concerned about the possibility of a pandemic. 

'It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control,' he said. 

'We have it totally under control. We do have a plan, and we think it's going to be handled very well.' 


Trump says US has a plan to fight SARS-like coronavirus
President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised the CDC and said he is 'not at all' concerned about the possibility of a pandemic

President Donald Trump on Wednesday praised the CDC and said he is 'not at all' concerned about the possibility of a pandemic 

WHAT IS THE NEW CORONAVIRUS SPREADING FROM CHINA?

An outbreak of pneumonia-like illnesses began in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019. 

Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. 

Scientists in China recognized its similarity to two viruses that turned into global killers: SARS and MERS. 

SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome is caused by the SARS coronavirus, known as SARS Co, and first emerged in China in 2002. 

By the end of the outbreak, the virus had spread to several other Asian countries as well as the UK and Canada, killing 774. 

MERS, or Middle East respirator syndrome originated in the region for which it's named, ultimately killed 787 people and belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as SARS. 

The new virus wasn't a match for either of those two, but it did belong to the same coronavirus family. 

Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, and most cause mild respiratory infections - i.e. the common cold. 

But because the SARS and MERS proved deadly, the emergence of another new coronavirus has health officials on edge around the world. 

Like its two dangerous cousins, the new coronavirus appears to have originated with animals - particularly seafood, chickens, bats, marmots - found at a Wuhan market that's been identified as the epicenter of the outbreak.  

The symptoms of SARS, which may be similar to those of the new coronavirus, include:

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • headaches
  • chills
  • muscle pain
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea

After these symptoms, the infection will begin to affect your lungs and airways (respiratory system), leading to additional symptoms, such as:

  • a dry cough
  • breathing difficulties
  • an increasing lack of oxygen in the blood, which can be fatal in the most severe cases

 So far, there isn't a treatment for the new virus or SARS, though the new virus has been sequenced, allowing for rapid diagnostics. 


The American man infected has not been named by CDC officials but is said to be a resident of Snahomish County, north of Seattle.

He is currently hospitalized and in 'good' condition but is being closely monitored in isolation. 

The man traveled from Wuhan, but did not visit any of the markets at the epicenter of the outbreak, according to state health officials.   

He arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – but not directly from Wuhan – on January 15, the day before screening was in place, and before he developed symptoms.

But he reportedly recognized his own symptoms – which typically include cough, fever and runny nose – after seeing online coverage of the virus. 

The patient reached out to doctors on January 16, was tested on the 17th and his diagnosis was confirmed Monday, health officials said.  

The patient is currently at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. 

A top official at the National Institute of Health (NIH) revealed Wednesday that human trials for a vaccine targeting 2019-nCoV could begin within three months.

Anthony S Fauci, the director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Bloomberg Law that his agency is working with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna Inc to develop the vaccine. 

'We're already working on it,' Fauci said. 'And hopefully in a period of about three months, we'll be able to start a phase I trial in humans.'

Fauci said his agency was also working with the WHO and CDC to obtain information about helping doctors around the world identify symptoms of coronavirus.  

'Obviously as is always the case when we have these outbreaks, it's a lot of collaboration and synergy between the CDC and the WHO and the NIH,' he said. 'Our job ultimately is to develop countermeasures.' 

Vaccine experts at Baylor University are also reportedly working on modifying a vaccine they designed to prevent SARS to protect against the new, related coronavirus.

But the school's Dean of Tropical Medicine, which is developing the shot, Dr Peter Hotez, told DailyMail.com that it's likely years away from deployment.  

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION DEBATES DECLARING PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY 

The WHO was expected to declare the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in a meeting held in Geneva on Wednesday - but members failed to come to a consensus and decided to reconvene Thursday. 

If the UN body declares it an emergency, it will be just the sixth time in history that it has happened.

The only other outbreaks to have been granted such a status include the 2009 Swine flu epidemic, the resurgence of Polio in 2014, the worldwide spread of Zika in 2016 and the two most recent Ebola outbreaks in 2014 and last year. 

The WHO has already advised governments to be prepared for the disease and ready to test anyone with symptoms who has traveled to affected regions. 

Public health officials around the world have been desperately trying to contain the outbreak, which officials have confirmed has passed between humans. 

2019-nCoV infects the nose, throat, or sinuses and can cause fever and lead to pneumonia. 

Cases have risen nine-fold in the space of a few days, with just 48 confirmed cases on January 17. 

At least 20 healthcare workers have since been infected, including one doctor investigating the outbreak.  

Sir Jeremy Farrar, a renowned specialist in infectious disease epidemics, told MailOnline on Tuesday that the coronavirus may have been lurking in animals for decades and only recently adapted to infect humans. 


US airports increase screening as deadly coronavirus outbreak spreads
Screening checkpoints were set up at Los Angeles International Airport, New York's John F Kennedy airport and San Francisco International Airport last week amid heightened concerns over the coronavirus. A passenger wearing a face mask is seen arriving at LAX on Tuesday

Screening checkpoints were set up at Los Angeles International Airport, New York's John F Kennedy airport and San Francisco International Airport last week amid heightened concerns over the coronavirus. A passenger wearing a face mask is seen arriving at LAX on Tuesday

Checkpoints were also set up at San Francisco International Airport, where passengers are seen on Tuesday

Checkpoints were also set up at San Francisco International Airport, where passengers are seen on Tuesday

Screenings will also take place at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest hub in the world (above in a file photo)

Screenings will also take place at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest hub in the world (above in a file photo)

CDC officials said additional checkpoints would be set up at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (above in a file photo) later this week

CDC officials said additional checkpoints would be set up at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (above in a file photo) later this week

Screenings have also been implemented at New York's John F Kennedy airport (file photo)

Screenings have also been implemented at New York's John F Kennedy airport (file photo)

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THIS OUTBREAK SO FAR? 

A total of 526 people are confirmed to have caught the coronavirus, which has never been seen before. Seventeen patients have died.

Most of the cases have occurred in Wuhan, a city in Hubei province home to 11 million people. But patients have been diagnosed across China, including in Beijing and Shanghai.

The coronavirus, which is from the same family as SARS, has also spread to South Korea, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and the United States. 

The outbreak is believed to have started late last month among people connected to a seafood market in Wuhan, which has since been shut.

China is entering its busiest travel period due to the Lunar New Year, which sees many people travelling back to their home town or village.

Virologists fear the increased travel that will happen over the holidays will cause a surge in cases.

So where have cases been recorded?

IN CHINA

Hubei province, 444 cases, 17 deaths

Guangdong province, 26 cases

Chongqing province, 5 cases 

Zhejiang province, 5 cases

Hainan province, 4 cases

Jiangxi, 2 cases 

Henan province, 1 case

Hunan province, 1 case

Yunnan province, 1 case 

Sichuan province, 2 cases 

Shandong province, 1 case

Fujian province, 1 case 

Shanghai, 9 cases

Beijing, 10 cases

Tianjin, 2 cases 

Macau, 1 case 

Hong Kong, 1 case 

--- 

ABROAD

Thailand, 4 cases

South Korea, 1 case

Japan, 1 case

Taiwan, 1 case

US, 1 case 

CHINESE OFFICIALS REACT TO OUTBREAK

In the wake of the outbreak, Chinese officials have urged travelers to stop visiting the city where its believed to originated, Wuhan - which is home to 11 million people. 

They warned that that are at 'the most critical stage' of containment and control and said the virus could spread further, especially as people travel to see relatives to celebrate Lunar New Year this week. 

China's National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin said: 'Basically, do not go to Wuhan. And those in Wuhan please do not leave the city.'

In the same public briefing, he also warned there is a possibility the virus will mutate, warning it could mean a further spread of the disease.

Li said: 'There has already been human-to-human transmission and infection of medical workers. Evidence has shown that the disease has been transmitted through the respiratory tract and there is the possibility of viral mutation.' 

It is common for viruses to undergo mutation, a process which can make them more dangerous if they become immune to treatments designed to combat them.  

The flu, for example, undergoes mutation, which is why scientists create a different vaccine to combat strains each year.   

Li addressed reporters again on Wednesday and attributed the growing number of confirmed cases to greater monitoring efforts and understanding of the virus. 

He said 2,197 people who were in close contact with coronavirus patients had been placed under observation and 765 have since been released while 1,394 are still being observed.   

Gao F*, the director-general of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also spoke about the outbreak on Wednesday and confirmed that the virus is mutating and adapting.  

FEARS OF INCOMPLETE CHINESE REPORTS

Leading scientists have accused China of under-reporting cases, saying it has a 'track record' of doing so and warning the 'true picture may be completely different'.    

Piotr Chlebicki, at Mount Alvernia Hospital in Singapore, told South China Morning Post it was 'hard to believe [the official number of] cases'. 

He added: 'China has a track record of under-reporting cases, so the true picture may be completely different.' 

The newspaper reported experts are concerned about the number of bureaucratic steps – put in place after the 2003 SARS outbreak – before a case can be confirmed. 

The virus has caused alarm because it is from the same family of viruses as SARS, which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen today urged China to release all information about the outbreak of a new virus and work with Taiwan on curbing its spread.

At China's insistence, Taiwan is not a member of the World Health Organization and is not allowed to participate in any of its meetings. However, large numbers of Taiwanese travel to and live in China. 

Tsai said: 'I especially want to urge China, being a member of international society, that it should fulfill its responsibilities to make the situation of the outbreak transparent, and to share accurate information on the outbreak with Taiwan.' 

One case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in Taiwan, which is home to 23 million people.   

Sharing information is also important for the health of the Chinese population and Beijing 'should not put political concerns above the protection of its own people,' Tsai said.

China regards Taiwan as its own territory and says it is not entitled to representation in most international bodies. 

Doctors treat patients with deadly coronavirus in Wuhan hospital
A medic in hazmat suit is seen checking the equipment inside Wuhan Central Hospital's intensive care unit on Wednesday

A medic in hazmat suit is seen checking the equipment inside Wuhan Central Hospital's intensive care unit on Wednesday

The outbreak is believed to have started late last month among people connected to a seafood market in Wuhan, where all six fatalities have happened

Chinese patient sealed in plastic tube with suspected coronavirus
Footage shared by Radio Free Asia shows medics donning hazmat suits transporting a coronavirus patient in a sealed plastic tube in Huizhou, a city in southern China's Guangdong province
The small coastal city, with a population of nearly five million, reported its first confirmed case on Monday

Footage shared by Radio Free Asia shows medics in hazmat suits transporting a coronavirus patient in a sealed plastic tube in Huizhou, a city in southern China's Guangdong province

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ON HIGH ALERT    

So far the vast majority of coronavirus cases reported have come out of China - with eight reported in other nations.  

Thai officials on Wednesday confirmed a fourth case, a 73-year-old woman who developed a fever after returning from Wuhan. 

She was being monitored in an isolated ward in a hospital in Nakhon Pathom, 37 miles (60km) west of Bangkok.

In a message to the country, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said: 'We can control the situation. 

'There have not been cases of human-to-human transmission in Thailand because we detected the patients as soon as they arrived.'

Saying there are no reports of the infection spreading to others, he added: 'We checked all of them: taxi drivers, people who wheeled the wheelchairs for the patients, doctors and nurses who worked around them.'

Two other Chinese patients in Thailand have recovered and been sent home, while a third will return once tests show he is clear of the virus. One of the four patients was a Thai national.

Thai officials have stepped up screening at airports to look for passengers with high body temperatures, coughs, headaches and trouble breathing. 

A Thai nurse works next to a campaign poster alerting patients of the coronavirus at a hospital in Bangkok. Four cases have been confirmed in Thailand

A Thai nurse works next to a campaign poster alerting patients of the coronavirus at a hospital in Bangkok. Four cases have been confirmed in Thailand

Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated

Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated

TRAVELERS FROM WUHAN TO BE SEPARATED FROM OTHER PASSENGERS AT HEATHROW 

Travelers from the area of China at the center of the coronavirus outbreak will be separated from other passengers on arrival at Heathrow Airport as UK health chiefs step up their response.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said Public Health England is putting in place new precautions in relation to travelers to the UK from the region. 

'There have been some announcements this morning about flights that come direct from the affected region to Heathrow with some additional measures there,' he told Sky News. 

'At the moment Public Health England have moved this from 'very low' to 'low' but obviously we want to stay ahead of the issue so we are keeping a very close eye on it. 

'Initially this is to ensure that when flights come in directly into Heathrow there is a separate area for people to arrive in.'

The Chinese-ruled gambling hub of Macau also confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on Wednesday – a 52-year-old Wuhan businesswoman. 

She took a high-speed train to the Chinese city of Zhuhai on January 19, then a shuttle bus to Macau. She had dinner with two friends, then went to the hotel and spent a long time in casinos. 

She was in a stable condition in an isolation ward. Her two friends were also being monitored and were in isolation.

Officials quickly moved to tighten temperature screening measures in casinos and around the city. A total of 405 guest entrances and 47 staff entrances have been provided with portable screening devices and all casino staff have to wear surgical masks. 

All performers and staff at the events hosted across Macau will be screened.

Entry points into Macau will also have temperature checks and visitors will be asked to fill in a health declaration form.

The tourist-magnet casino industry in Macau, which returned to Chinese rule in 1999, accounts for more than 80 percent of the revenue in the city of 600,000 people. 

Macau is a popular Lunar New Year destination for mainland Chinese. 

Taiwan, where one case of the coronavirus has been detected, has called on people not to visit Wuhan unless they absolutely have to. 

Australian officials on Tuesday announced a traveler had been placed in quarantine with symptoms of the virus after returning home from a trip to China.

The man is being kept at his home in Brisbane as he awaits test results for the virus. Earlier tests were inconclusive, Queensland health chiefs said.

The suspected case prompted Prime Minister Scott Morrison to warn Australians travelling to China to 'exercise a high degree of caution' in China's Wuhan area. 

The Philippines also announced that it was investigating its first potential case of the coronavirus.

A five-year-old child arrived in the country on January 12 from Wuhan and has since been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

While the child tested positive for a virus, authorities in Manila said they were not sure if it was the same one that has killed 17 people in China. 

North Korea, which keeps public health data closely guarded as a state secret, has not reported any cases but has restricted the movement of tourists amid fears the disease could spread there.  

Countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Malaysia have reportedly upped their screening methods to detect travelers with a fever in airports.  

Public health officials in the United Kingdom have instructed NHS hospitals on how to deal with cases amid fears the virus will spread - as London's Heathrow airport vowed to separate passengers flying in from Wuhan.  

People around China buy face masks amid fears of SARS-like virus
Quarantine workers spray disinfect at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. South Korea confirmed its first case on January 20 after a 35-year-old woman arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport tested positive for the virus

Quarantine workers spray disinfect at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. South Korea confirmed its first case on January 20 after a 35-year-old woman arriving at Seoul's Incheon airport tested positive for the virus

An official uses an infrared thermometer on a traveler at a health screening checkpoint at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Wuhan is at the center of the outbreak

An official uses an infrared thermometer on a traveler at a health screening checkpoint at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport. Wuhan is at the center of the outbreak

PUBLIC PANIC IN CHINA 

Reports also state face masks are flying off the shelves across China as the country's citizens prepare themselves for the potential spread of the outbreak, which has already swept the nation.

Pictures and videos circulating on the country's social media show residents in various cities queuing to stock up on the medical products. 

On Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, web users reported to have seen huge lines of customers in and outside pharmacies in hope of buying the sought-after item. 

DOCTOR INVESTIGATING OUTBREAK ADMITS HE HAS CAUGHT THE VIRUS 

A leading Chinese doctor investigating the killer coronavirus yesterday admitted he has caught the SARS-like infection.

Wang Guangfa, who heads the department of pulmonary medicine at Beijing's Peking University First Hospital, was part of a team of experts that earlier this month visited Wuhan, where the virus first emerged.

'I was diagnosed and my condition is fine,' Dr Wang told Kong's Cable TV. He said he is receiving treatment and will have an 'injection' soon.

Dr Guangfa is one of the national experts that previously said the pneumonia-causing virus, which has never been seen before, was under control.

Wang Guangfa has been infected with the new virus in China after being part of a team of doctors investigating it in Wuhan, where the virus emerged

Wang Guangfa has been infected with the new virus in China after being part of a team of doctors investigating it in Wuhan, where the virus emergedPrices for face masks have surged, according a report from Beijing Evening News.

Some vendors on the country's e-commerce site have increased the price of the N95 masks - which is made by US company 3M and particularly popular in China - from 99 yuan ($14) a box to nearly 1,000 yuan ($145) a box, the report said.

A topic page titled 'the main force of buying face masks' on Weibo has attracted around 570 million clicks as the Chinese citizens discuss the apparent nationwide buying spree.  

Professor John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary College, yesterday admitted he was 'quaking in my shoes' over the potential spread of the virus that could happen over the Chinese New Year.

He told LBC: 'None of us have faced a new virus faced with so many people in a community travelling around. 

'That's what's going to happen in China at the end of the week. Once they are close together in taxis or small rooms, then there may be a problem.'  

And Professor Oxford added: 'The only way to stop it is physical cleaning and social distance - keeping away from people.'  

Locals have made more than four million trips by train, road and air since January 10 in the annual travel rush for the most important holiday in the country.

The transport peak season will last until February 18 and see three billion trips made within China, according to official statistics.

People in China have been urged not to panic and to try and enjoy the festive season.

A piece in Chinese newspaper the Global Times said on Sunday: 'The entire Chinese society should be vigilant but should not be in panic. 

'We should make the upcoming Spring Festival happy and peaceful, and also pay close attention to every link where the pneumonia may increase transmission.'

Families of sicked loved who have died of mystery respiratory diseases in recent weeks believe the true number of cases and deaths is far higher than what China has admitted, The Guardian reported yesterday.

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