At least 26 people have been killed so far and over 800 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in China alone. Chinese authorities have suspended planes and trains in and out of Wuhan and seven neighbouring cities in an effort to control the spread of the illness.
A lockdown has taken place in 13 cities, affecting around 40 million people.
China is swiftly building a hospital dedicated to treating patients infected with a new Coronavirus.
In Europe, authorities are preparing to deal with the arrival of infected people as the virus spreads beyond Chinese borders. Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam are the latest countries to have registered confirmed cases. Health authorities in Italy, France and Germany are currently testing people arriving from Asia.
It is hoped the measures taken by Beijing will reduce the risk of international spread. But Pasi Penttinen, an expert in immunisation at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control says we are in peak Influenza ('flu') season - and this outbreak has come at the worst possible time for both Wuhan and for Europe:
“We are racing against the clock to be prepared for an eventual detection of a case coming in from Wuhan,” Penttinen said. He goes on: “Individuals who are infected cannot differentiate by themselves if they have the virus or the Influenza virus.”
After detecting a case, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which works together with National Health Agencies across the EU, advise stringent preventive control measures to be taken to avoid the spreading of the illness. Hospitals and emergency wards are also being prepared to deal with the crisis in many European countries.
Jean Lang is the Head of Global Health and partnerships at vaccines maker Sanofi Pasteur in France. He says developing Coronavirus vaccines are very complex and long processes: “We all know the vaccines are need the most powerful preventative measures to be used... You need the virus sequence, then we need to carry out tests." He goes on: "We need to understand the virus and how it is transmitted from human to human first.”
Fourteen people in the UK are being tested for the virus according to Public Health England. The UK is a popular destination for Chinese students. The World Health Organisation say the situation is not yet bad enough to declare an International emergency.
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