Yesterday, both the U.K. and French governments warned their citizens against travel to China, and advised their citizens already in the country to leave. Canada is now also officially advising Canadian citizens against travel to the whole of China, not just Hubei province (at the 2:18 point of the press conference below), as well as asking those Canadians within the country to leave China as soon as possible:
We can expect to see more such declarations by other nations about travel to and from China, but it remains to be seen whether or not such serious measures will have any significant impact on the spread of the 2019-nCoV virus. Most experts are saying it’s too late to contain the virus.
Just a couple of weeks ago, scientists held out hope the new coronavirus could be largely contained within China. Now they know its spread can be minimized at best, and governments are planning for the worst.
“It is not a matter of if—it is a matter of when,” said Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “There is not a doubt this is going to end up in most countries eventually.”
Total containment isn’t in the cards, said Nancy Messonnier, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Given the nature of this virus and how it’s spreading, that would be impossible. Our goal is to slow this thing down.”
Measures taken in the U.S. have been criticized in China, where officials said the Americans are stoking fear and overreacting. The CDC responded that it has no choice. The infection is spreading rapidly and humans have no protection against it, Messonnier said. While most cases appear to be mild, the worry is that it will spread to a large number of people and turn deadly in those most vulnerable.
“This is an unprecedented situation and we are taking aggressive measures,” she said. “We are preparing as if this were the next pandemic.”
Despite all the colossal efforts to contain the virus, scientists are quietly preparing for a grim — and increasingly likely — outcome: A full-blown global pandemic.
Since the novel virus was isolated in December in the Chinese megacity of Wuhan, the pathogen has reached four continents and infected more than 24,000 people. At least 493 of them have died as a result. With the outbreak continuing to expand, authorities acknowledge that efforts will soon shift from trying to squelch the coronavirus to learning to live with it.
“We’re proceeding as if things go really sour on us in the coming weeks and months,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. “We’re working for the worst-case scenario.”
At this point all the experts are now saying the same thing: that the Wuhan coronavirus will continue to spread worldwide. It cannot be contained, either within the city of Wuhan, the country of China, or the region of south-east Asia. The best that countries outside China can do at this point is to use case isolation and contact tracing to slow down the spread of the virus within their countries, and buy more time in order to prepare. As Dr. Amesh Adalja says above, “It is not a matter of if—it is a matter of when”.
Remember, there is no vaccine against the Wuhan coronavirus, and there is unlikely to be one for at least a year. Also, no one has any natural immunity to the 2019-nCoV virus. Scientists still don’t know what percentage of the people who catch this virus will develop only mild symptoms, and what percentage of infected people will land up in hospital. It has already been reported by Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIAID that approximately one in four people who are hospitalized so far have severe cases, requiring intensive care. No hospital system, anywhere in the world, has enough intensive care beds to deal with a surge of tens of thousands of serious 2019-nCoV cases, as we have already seen in Wuhan, China.
As I have said before, what this means for you, reading this now, is that you need to prepare yourself and your family for the possibility that you will need to stay in your homes for a period of several weeks, avoiding contact with as many other people as possible, as a wave of illness caused by the Wuhan coronavirus sweeps through your community, forcing schools, businesses, and public transportation and public gathering places like movie theatres and shopping malls to close (as we already seen in Wuhan and many other cities in China). The time to prepare for this is NOW.
That means that you need to prepare by stocking up on food and other supplies to last you at least two or three weeks. Start by reviewing the Personal Health Preparedness lists provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.
You will need to have on hand:
- At least two weeks of food and other supplies (toilet paper, first aid supplies, soap and hand sanitizer, garbage bags, etc.).
- Refills of all your presecription medications, plus a stock of over-the-counter medicines (talk to your doctor and pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of your prescription medication).
- Power sources (flashlights, extra batteries, car chargers and adapters for your mobile devices, etc.).
Other things that you should do:
- Sign up for any local alerts from your city, state/province, or federal government (or know where to find the information on the Internet). Find out what plans your employer is making.
- If you haven’t yet, get your seasonal flu shot. It can’t hurt, and it will help to figure out whether or not you do have 2019-nCoV if/when you do become sick. Many areas now give out the flu shot for free.
- Watch the following video from the World Health Organization on how wash your hands! (Yes, I know I have posted it before. Watch if anyways, you might learn something you didn’t know before. Proper hand hygiene will also help you avoid catching regular seasonal colds and influenza, so there’s a net benefit to society.)
Good Sources of Information on 2019-nCoV
Here is my list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (more formally known as 2019-nCoV):
- the United Nations World Health Organization
- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Personal Health Preparedness information from the U.S. CDC
- Health Canada, including an FAQ and a fact sheet
- Public Health Canada
- Information for the Public from the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England (U.K.)
- Public Health Ontario (Canada)
- Coronavirus Information for the Public (British Columbia Centre for Disease Control; see also this series of tweets)
- University of Chicago Medicine
- 2019-2020 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak (Wikipedia)
- Dr. Roger Seheult is posting short videos to his YouTube channel, explaining the medical concepts behind the Wuhan coronavirus in an easy-to-understand way
If you want a quick, up-to-date overview of the current situation, here are three good places to check:
- 2019-nCoV Global Cases (by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University)
- Tracking coronavirus: Map, Data and Timeline by BNO News
- the Wikipedia article on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak is constantly updated by an army of volunteer editors, and provides a good overall summary of the situation
Sources of Fast-Breaking News on 2019-nCoV (WARNING: News You Read Here May Not Be 100% Credible!)
PLEASE READ: In addition to the sources listed in the previous section, there are other places you can check, which might have reports (including translated links to local social media in China) that have not yet made the mainstream news media. Please keep in mind that the situation in China is chaotic, and that some of the information you find in the sources I list below might be gossip, rumours, hoaxes, conspiracy theories, misinformation, or disinformation!
Please review the information and videos I posted in my blogpost about How to Spot Fake News, BEFORE using any of these links.
- The FluTrackers.com discussion forum
- The China_Flu subReddit, their wiki with FAQ, and their new official website
- The Intelliwatch Discord server (invite link) is a geopolitical events and crises discussion forum that has three channels devoted to 2019-nCoV/Wuhan coronavirus news, rumours, and speculation.
- The Corona Virus (2019-nCoV) Discord server (invite link)
- If you want a credible list of people to follow on Twitter, epidemiologist Dr. Ellie Murray has compiled a curated list of coronavirus experts that you can subscribe to.