Confirmed cases of Novel Coronavirus now Number 9

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Live Saving Basics – the First Step is Awareness

By Don Donahue

Background

  • coronavirusIn a November 23rd update, WHO reported that they had been notified of four additional cases, including one death, due to infection with the novel coronavirus. The additional cases have been identified as part of the enhanced surveillance in Saudi Arabia (3 cases, including 1 death) and Qatar (1 case).
  • On November 30th as reported by WHO, and in addition to the fatal case of novel coronavirus in Saudi Arabia reported to WHO on November 28, two fatal cases in Jordan were reported to WHO, bringing the total of laboratory-confirmed cases to nine.
  • The latest confirmed case from Saudi Arabia occurred in October 2012 and is from the family cluster of the two cases confirmed earlier.

Investigations are ongoing in areas of epidemiology, clinical management, and virology, to look into the likely source of infection, the route of exposure, and the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the virus. Close contacts of the recently confirmed cases are being identified and followed-up.  

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which includes viruses that cause the common cold and SARS. Given that this is a novel coronavirus, WHO is currently in the process of obtaining further information to determine the public health implications of these two confirmed cases.

The emergence of a SARS-like coronavirus (Novel coronavirus) is an apt example of both the challenges and the positive potential in global health.  

New diseases, as documented by the World Health Organization, have been emerging at an unprecedented rate for the past 40 years; and that rate continues to accelerate.  Human intrusion into and development of formerly untouched environments and the dislodging of previously remote fauna bring exposure to new viruses.  

Cultural and socio-economic practices such as consuming meat from feral animals bring further exposure.  Rapid world travel supports the spread of once isolated cases.  

The good news is enhanced detection and diagnostic capabilities supported by international public health cooperation support early detection of these emerging diseases.  

While this resembles the next installment in a communicable disease film genre – “Outbreak” (1995) and “Contagion” (2011) are examples – it is actually a real life concern.  

What, you might ask, is the relevance to me?  

Certainly, 9 cases out of a global population of 7 billion are not world-changing.  As with any form of risk avoidance, the first step is awareness:

  • Cognizance of novel disease emergence is as important as alertness to crime and civil strife.
  • Currently reported cases originated in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are not uncommon business destinations.
  • People returning from overseas travel should be mindful of flu-like symptoms or other respiratory distress.  Early detection and treatment is essential to countering a new health threat.
  • Individuals and organizations who venture overseas should make a disease survey an integral part of travel planning. 

Closer to home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an increase in flu activity across the country over the last two weeks may indicate an early flu season. If 45% of your employees couldn’t work tomorrow, what would you do?  First, Firestorm’s Human Resources Reference Guide is intended to assist organizations in Human Resource planning for a pandemic or communicable illness outbreak. Next:

Train Employees to:

  • Get the proper vaccinations. Ask your doctor about what protection you’ll need for whatever part of the world you’re traveling to (like yellow fever, for example, for Sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. It’s also essential that your basic vaccinations—like diphtheria, tetanus, measles/mumps/rubella, and hepatitis A and B—are up-to-date.
  • Bring a traveler’s health kit. Don’t count on being able to find the proper medicine in the region where you’re traveling; counterfeit medication is often rampant. Instead, bring your own pain medication, along with Imodium and an antibiotic for intestinal problems. If you’re heading to an area affected by malaria, ask your doctor to prescribe the proper prophylaxis.
  • Watch what you eat and drink. Let common sense guide you. Drink bottled water or boil it, and make sure fresh vegetables are hot and steaming. (See the CDC’s recommendations on safe food and water.)

This is very basic planning, but planning that can be literally life-saving.

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