Coronavirus may originate from trafficked wildlife

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 23 January 2020

Chinese authorities have closed down the city of Wuhan in Central China in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly and rapidly spreading novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

To date, coronavirus, a viral strain which causes deadly respiratory illness, has claimed 17 lives with over 540 cases confirmed since the outbreak on 31 December 2019 (Reuters).

While global authorities scramble to get a handle on the virus, it’s strongly suspected that the zoonotic virus, transmitted between mammals and from animals to human, was transmitted and spread by illegal wildlife.

The coronavirus outbreak is believed to have originated from a Chinese seafood market in the city of Wuhan, a major transport hub in central China. The Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, which has since been closed, sells a variety of exotic wild animals. Authorities believe the virus could be spread by trafficked animals linked to the illegal wildlife trade.

According to CNN, the USA has confirmed its first case of coronavirus. North Korea has also closed its border to China after it was confirmed that the virus has reached Japan, Thailand and South Korea,

The Chinese government has ordered a partial lockdown of the city, as well as Wuhan Tianhe International Airport and transport services exiting the city. More countries and airports are conducting health screenings of travellers.

Advice from the World Health Organization

It is prudent to remind populations and health workers of the basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections by following the below-mentioned measures:

  • Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
  • Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment;
  • Avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals;
  • People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands);
  • Within healthcare facilities, enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments.

The WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers. In case of symptoms suggestive of acute respiratory illness either during or after travel, the travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Health authorities should work with travel, transport and tourism sectors to provide travellers with information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections via travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry.

Image: Unsplash

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