A new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from Wuhan, China, that was identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019 has, as of January 30, caused more than 7,700 confirmed cases of respiratory disease, resulting in at least 170 deaths (these are official numbers; experts have warned that, due to a shortage of test kits, the actual infection rates and death toll may be higher). This pathogen is from the same family of viruses that includes the common cold, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
So far, suspected and confirmed cases have been reported in at least 19 countries, with the vast majority of cases in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), in the region near Wuhan City, Hubei Province. The cases that have been identified outside of the PRC usually have had some linkage via travel or contact with the affected region in the PRC. As with other respiratory viruses, 2019-nCoV can be spread through the air by coughing or sneezing, or by coming into contact with an infected person or an object or surface with the virus on it.
International Medical Corps is tracking the situation closely, leveraging the expertise of staff who have worked on SARS in China and in Asia during the last SARS epidemic, and has reached out to authorities in affected areas in Asia, the US and Canada to offer assistance. Our Emergency Response Unit is reviewing our emergency roster of more than 500 specialists, and is taking action to acquire additional personnel protective equipment (PPE), rapid diagnostics, infection control items, specialized medical equipment and additional portable clinical structures required for isolation, screening and treatment during outbreak situations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has notified its system of Emergency Medical Teams (including International Medical Corps) to ascertain their state of readiness and availability should the outbreak continue to widen. These rapid response teams would be used to strengthen screening, disease tracking, treatment and isolation capacities in selected locations, such as healthcare facilities, airports or critical industries. Organizations are applying what they learned during the SARS epidemic of 2003, when medical facilities were overwhelmed, many health providers became ill and many vital industries were affected (e.g., transportation supply chains, aviation).
International Medical Corps is mobilizing resources to be ready to respond to the medical needs of affected populations when requested by WHO, or to operate independently when the need arises.