|Roundup of Stories about the SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus and COVID-19 Disease
|Wednesday February 26 2020, @12:45PM
|from the International-whack-a-mole^W-virus? dept.
There have been several significant developments in the battle against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and the resulting illness COVID-19. This story gathers a selection of stories from across the web.
WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 24 February 2020:
We're encouraged by the continued decline in cases in China.
Earlier today the WHO-China joint mission concluded its visit and delivered its report.
[...] The team has made a range of findings about the transmissibility of the virus, the severity of disease and the impact of the measures taken.
They found that the epidemic peaked and plateaued between the 23rd of January and the 2nd of February, and has been declining steadily since then.
They have found that there has been no significant change in the DNA of the virus.
They found that the fatality rate is between 2% and 4% in Wuhan, and 0.7% outside Wuhan.
They found that for people with mild disease, recovery time is about two weeks, while people with severe or critical disease recover within three to six weeks.
The team also estimate that the measures taken in China have averted a significant number of cases.
The report contains a wealth of other information, highlights questions for which we still don't have answers, and includes 22 recommendations.
[...] But the key message that should give all countries hope, courage and confidence is that this virus can be contained.
[...] The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning.
There's a lot of speculation about whether these increases mean that this epidemic has now become a pandemic.
[...] WHO has already declared a public health emergency of international concern – our highest level of alarm – when there were less than 100 cases outside China, and 8 cases of human-to-human transmission.
Our decision about whether to use the word "pandemic" to describe an epidemic is based on an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes and the impact it has on the whole of society.
For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing large-scale severe disease or death.
Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.
So how should we describe the current situation?
What we see are epidemics in different parts of the world, affecting countries in different ways and requiring a tailored response.
The sudden increase in new cases is certainly very concerning.
[...] We must focus on containment, while doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic.
[...] there are at least three priorities.
First, all countries must prioritize protecting health workers.
Second, we must engage communities to protect people who are most at risk of severe disease, particularly the elderly and people with underlying health conditions.
And third, we must protect countries that are the most vulnerable, by doing our utmost to contain epidemics in countries with the capacity to do it.
Coronavirus spread in US not a matter of if, but when, CDC warns:
Americans should begin preparing for the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak in the US, according to a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the immediate threat to the general public is still low, federal health officials said the coronavirus is likely to expand its footprint in the US.
"We expect we will see community spread in this country," said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a press briefing Tuesday. "It's more of a question of exactly when this will happen."
The CDC also outlined steps that cities, business and schools may need to take if the virus becomes a pandemic.
"We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad," said Messonnier. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing as well."
Italy struggles with virus 'that doesn't respect borders':
[...] Codogno is now known as the "Wuhan of Italy" and is on lockdown. Trains do not stop there and the streets are empty.
Within 72 hours from the first outbreak, almost a dozen towns in the wealthy regions of Lombardy and Veneto, with a total population of about 50,000 people, were placed under quarantine.
Now desperately struggling to contain the virus, Italy has the largest number of cases outside Asia and the second-highest number of deaths outside China after Iran, where at least 15 people have died.
All the people who have died in Italy were elderly patients or already had serious preconditions.
The worst-hit European country, at least 11 people have died from coronavirus in Italy and there are more than 300 cases - most in the north.
"We're talking about a virus that doesn't respect borders," said Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza.
[...] In recent days, schools and museums were closed in major cities, sports and cultural events were cancelled and the Venice carnival was called off. Trade fairs in Milan were postponed. The bars that are still open must observe a curfew.
[...] Authorities still have little information about the identity of the "superspreader", or Patient 0. While they are still looking for the source, the high number of infected patients has shifted priorities.
According to reports, a hospital in the northern town of Codogno mismanaged the region's first case and fuelled the infection's spread.
[...] People from the isolated areas have criticised a lack of coordination, poor access to emergency hotlines, and a shortage of swabs for testing.
Police and military patrol have been deployed around the towns on lockdown, with officers in surgical masks.
The coronavirus seems unstoppable. What should the world do now?:
The global march of COVID-19 is beginning to look unstoppable. In just the past week, a countrywide outbreak surfaced in Iran, spawning additional cases in Iraq, Oman, and Bahrain. Italy put 10 towns in the north on lockdown after the virus rapidly spread there. An Italian physician carried the virus to the Spanish island of Tenerife, a popular holiday spot for northern Europeans, and Austria and Croatia reported their first cases. Meanwhile, South Korea's outbreak kept growing explosively and Japan reported additional cases in the wake of the botched quarantine of a cruise ship.
The virus may be spreading stealthily in many more places. A modeling group at Imperial College London has estimated that about two-thirds of the cases exported from China have yet to be detected.
The World Health Organization (WHO) still avoided using the word "pandemic" to describe the burgeoning crisis today, instead talking about "epidemics in different parts of the world." But many scientists say that regardless of what it's called, the window for containment is now almost certainly shut. "It looks to me like this virus really has escaped from China and is being transmitted quite widely," says Christopher Dye, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. "I'm now feeling much more pessimistic that it can be controlled." In the United States, "disruption to everyday life might be severe," Nancy Messonnier, who leads the coronavirus response for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned on 25 February. "We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this is going to be bad."
Dye and others say it's time to rethink the public health response. So far, efforts have focused on containment: slowing the spread of the virus within China, keeping it from being exported to other countries, and, when patients do cross borders, aggressively tracing anyone they were in contact with and quarantining those people for 2 weeks. But if the virus, named SARS-CoV-2, has gone global, travel restrictions may become less effective than measures to limit outbreaks and reduce their impact, wherever they are—for instance, by closing schools, preparing hospitals, or even imposing the kind of draconian quarantine imposed on huge cities in China.
"Border measures will not be as effective or even feasible, and the focus will be on community mitigation measures until a vaccine becomes available in sufficient quantities," says Luciana Borio, a former biodefense preparedness expert at the U.S. National Security Council who is now vice president at In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit venture capital firm. "The fight now is to mitigate, keep the health care system working, and don't panic," adds Alessandro Vespignani, an infectious disease modeler at Northeastern University. "This has a range of outcomes from the equivalent of a very bad flu season to something that is perhaps a little bit worse than that."
Public health experts disagree, however, about how quickly the travel restrictions that have marked the first phase of the epidemic should be loosened. Early this week, the total number of cases stood at more than 80,000 with 2705 deaths—with 97% of the total still in China. Some countries have gone so far as to ban all flights to and from China; the United States quarantines anyone who has been in hard-hit Hubei province and refuses entry to foreign nationals if they have been anywhere in China during the past 2 weeks. Several countries have also added restrictions against South Korea and Iran.
[...] To prepare for what's coming, hospitals can stockpile respiratory equipment and add beds. More intensive use of the vaccines against influenza and pneumococcal infections could help reduce the burden of those respiratory diseases on the health care system and make it easier to identify COVID-19 cases, which produce similar symptoms. Governments can issue messages about the importance of handwashing and staying home if you're ill.
Whatever the rest of the world does, it's essential that it take action soon, [WHO's Bruce] Aylward says, and he hopes other countries will learn from China. "The single biggest lesson is: Speed is everything," he says. "And you know what worries me most? Has the rest of the world learned the lesson of speed?"
Coronavirus in pictures: Scenes from around the world:
This story presents a sequence of 28 pictures. Each picture has a description and often links to supporting information.
Global stock markets plunge on coronavirus fears:
Global financial markets saw some of the sharpest falls in years on Monday after a rise in coronavirus cases renewed fears about economic slowdown.
In the US, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 posted their sharpest daily declines since 2018, with the Dow falling 3.5% or more than 1,000 points.
The S&P 500 ended the day 3.3% lower, while the Nasdaq sank 3.7%.
The UK's FTSE 100 share index closed 3.3% lower, the sharpest drop since January 2016.
In Italy, which has seen Europe's worst outbreak of the virus, Milan's stock market plunged nearly 6%.
In contrast, the price of gold, which is considered less risky, hit its highest level in seven years at one point.
[...] "There has been so much complacency in recent weeks from investors, despite clear signs that China's economy is facing a large hit and that supply chains around the world were being disrupted," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
"Markets initially wobbled in January, but had quickly bounced back, implying that investors didn't see the coronavirus as a serious threat to corporate earnings. They may now be reappraising the situation."
CDC tells Americans to brace for coronavirus:
Fresh off a plane from China, epidemiologist Bruce Aylward sat before members of the press at the World Health Organization's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday and laid out key insights from the coronavirus front lines.
Aylward, a nearly 30-year veteran of outbreak and emergency responses with the WHO, had just led a joint mission through the COVID-19 trenches to appraise the outbreak and China's control efforts. His assessment was glowing: China had responded swiftly, on a mind-boggling large scale, and with differential outbreak responses tailored to curb disease spread in different settings—from the outbreak's blazing epicenter in a highly populated city to the spotty disease clusters in rural areas.
He pointed to humped graphs of cases over time—they are the shape of an epidemic that has been hobbled, he said. Disease spread has been in decline since the beginning of the month, and doctors in China are honing their ability to treat patients. "If I had COVID-19, I'd want to be treated in China," he said candidly.
Based on the data, China's massive efforts have been generally successful and indicate that the virus can be contained, Aylward reported. Yet Chinese officials remain vigilant, he added, in case this never-before-seen virus (which has plagued humanity for mere weeks) presents any surprises.
While Aylward was impressed with the Chinese government response, he noted early in the briefing that he was also taken by the response of Chinese citizens—their cooperation and individual sense of duty to try to help quash the outbreak. "We spoke to hundreds of people... and they all shared this sense of responsibility, accountability to be part of this," Aylward said, noting that there didn't appear to be any government pressure or presence forcing that sense of duty. People were adhering to quarantine protocols on their own, he noted, and medical staff were volunteering to go to the hardest hit areas in the Wuhan province.
Iran's deputy health minister: I have coronavirus
Iran's deputy health minister said he has contracted the coronavirus and placed himself in isolation, a day after appearing feverish at a press conference in which he downplayed its spread in the shrine city of Qom and said mass quarantines were unnecessary.
Also at BBC.
As the rest of the world battles the Corona virus, unrest is growing in Europe as well.
Eleven people have now died from Covid-19 in Italy, while 10 villages remain isolated. Today, in a single day, the number of infected Italians has jumped 45 percent to 322. The virus has spread across Italy now: while the infections originally were limited to the North of the country (Lombardia, Veneto, where the Venice Carnival has been closed down), they now have spread to Emilio-Romagna, Lazio (the region around Rome), the Toscan region, Piemont, Trentino-Alto Adigo (Southern Tirol), and (today, Feb 25) Liguria (around Genoa) and Sicily.
The statistics in Italy suggest that for every 100 infected people, 5 are expected to die -- typically older, already weakened, people.
Questions remain about case zero, the original infectious patient in Italy: yesterday that person was still not identified.
US health officials: 'When, not if' coronavirus reaches US:
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday alerted Americans to begin preparing for the spread of coronavirus in the United States after the flu-like virus surfaced in several more countries.
The announcement signals a change in tone for the US health agency, which had largely been focused on efforts to stop the virus from entering the country and quarantining individuals travelling from China.
"The data over the past week about the spread in other countries has raised our level of concern and expectation that we are going to have community spread here," Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call.
What is not known, she said, is when it will arrive and how severe a US outbreak might be. "Disruption to everyday life might be severe," she cautioned.
Businesses, schools and families should begin having discussions about the possibility that their lives may be disrupted if the virus begins spreading within US communities.
Separately, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a Senate subcommittee there will likely be more cases in the US, and he asked legislators to approve $2.5bn in funding to fight the outbreak after proposing cuts to the department's budget.
"While the immediate risk to individual members of the American public remains low, there is now community transmission in a number of countries, including outside of Asia, which is deeply concerning," Azar said, adding that recent outbreaks in Iran and Italy were particularly worrying.
Major US stock indexes fell again on Tuesday after a sharp selloff on Monday.
Azar said the US government was working closely with state, local, and private sector partners to prepare for mitigating the virus' potential spread in the US.
US Senator Chuck Schumer, however, said President Donald Trump and his administration had been caught "flat-footed" and lacked a comprehensive plan to deal with coronavirus. He called for at least $3.1bn in additional funding to fight it.
"The Trump administration has shown towering and dangerous incompetence when it comes to the coronavirus," said Schumer, the top Senate Democrat. "Mr President, you need to get your act together now. This is a crisis."
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