The U.S. Department of State has issued new guidance for travelers due to concerns about an outbreak of a pneumonia-like virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and U.S. health officials are recommending that people avoid all nonessential travel to the city.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a Level 3 travel warning ("avoid nonessential travel") for Wuhan, and the State Department's Level 2 China travel advisory urges travelers to "exercise increased caution." The State Department added the CDC's warning about Wuhan to its guidance on Thursday.
The virus — which was first diagnosed less than a month ago — has already killed at least 25 people in China and infected roughly 830 people around the world, including firsts in Singapore and Saudi Arabia, according to multiple reports from international and local media.
A traveler returning to Seattle this week after traveling to Wuhan was the first instance of the infection in the U.S., health officials said.
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In an effort to contain the novel coronavirus, Chinese officials have quarantined both Wuhan and the nearby city of Huanggang, which have a combined population of 17 million, and a similar lockdown is planned for the city of Ezhou, population 1 million, on Friday.
Officials closed transport within and out the cities on Thursday, "including buses, subways, trains, and the international airport," according to the CDC.
China is offering to refund domestic flights and train tickets nationwide, CNBC reported. An estimated 246,000 travelers arrived in Wuhan either via plane or train on Thursday before all transportation in and out of the city was shut down. The number of people leaving the city is currently unknown.
Authorities have asked travelers to or from Wuhan to:
- Avoid contact with sick people
- Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat)
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
- Older travelers and those with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss travel to Wuhan with their healthcare provider
Patients with confirmed 2019-nCoV infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and/or shortness of breath.
CDC believes at this time that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as little as two days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses.
According to the CDC, the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China.