New Delhi: Concerned over the spread of a new strain of coronavirus in neighbourhood nations from China, the Narendra Modi government has reached out to the World Health Organization (WHO) to understand if India needs to take any precaution to prevent the entry of the deadly respiratory disease.
“The (health) ministry is on alert and if required, we will take action urgently. We are in touch with WHO to understand if India needs to issue advisory. We will go by their technical advice,” a top health ministry official, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint.
While three Asian countries — China, Japan and Thailand — have already reported the occurrence of the virus, the US embassy in Beijing has issued an alert to Americans in China to “avoid contact with all animals and sick people, and wash their hands regularly”.
China, where the virus was first reported from, has seen at least 41 cases, including a death.
In a statement, the (WHO) said “a novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans”.
On Thursday, the WHO asked all nations to be prepared to tackle the spread. “WHO encourages all countries to continue preparedness activities on the novel coronavirus,” the international health agency said in a tweet.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 16, 2020
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“Not enough is known about the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to draw definitive conclusions about how it is transmitted, clinical features of disease, or the extent to which it has spread. The source also remains unknown,” it said.
The new virus
According to the WHO, coronaviruses are a “large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)”.
Detailed investigations into these viruses 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,” said the agency.
In a thread of posts on microblogging site Twitter last week, WHO provided “interim guidance” on a range of topics to help countries manage the new spread, and detailed procedures on how to monitor sick people, control infection and communicate with the public about the virus.
How to prevent the spread?
Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people, according to the WHO. The agency said common signs of the new coronavirus infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, SARS, kidney failure and even death.
WHO’s standard recommendations to prevent the virus’ spread include washing hands regularly, covering mouth and nose while sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
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