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Detailed guide: Wuhan novel coronavirus: information for the public

Department Of Health

January 26
14:00 2020

Situation in the UK

As of 26 January, a total of 52 UK tests have concluded, of which 52 were confirmed negative and 0 positive.

The Department of Health and Social Care will be publishing updated data on this page on a daily basis at 2pm until further notice

There are currently no confirmed cases in the UK or of UK citizens abroad, and the risk to the public is low. The government is monitoring the situation closely and will continue to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and international community.

The governments approach is guided by the advice of the Chief Medical Officer.

If and when a first case in the UK is confirmed, it will be announced as soon as possible by the Chief Medical Officer of the affected country. This will be followed by a statement by Englands Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty.

Information about the virus

A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Wuhan novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China.

Advice for travellers from Wuhan

If you have visited Wuhan and develop a fever, difficulty breathing or a cough within 14 days, you should seek medical attention either in China or on your return to the UK. In the UK, please stay indoors and avoid contact with others where possible, call your GP or ring 111 informing them of your symptoms and your recent travel to the city.

Summary of action taken

We have introduced advanced monitoring at airports with direct flights from China.

A team of public health experts has been established in Heathrow to support anyone travelling in from China who feels unwell. These hubs will bring in rotational teams of 7 clinicians, working in shifts, who will be on hand to support patients on arrival. This is in addition to medical staff who are already permanently in place at all UK airports and the advice issued to all UK airports for people travelling to and from China.

The government has issued clinical guidance for the detection and diagnosis of Wuhan novel coronavirus, and infection prevention and control.

The Chief Medical Officer, Medical Director at PHE and Medical Director at NHSE/I have issued advice via a CAS (Central Alerting System) alert to frontline staff to increase awareness of the situation and any actions to take.

Most people who develop symptoms will get them after leaving the airport and so the priority is providing UK residents and travellers with the latest information to make sure they know what to do if they experience symptoms, and the NHS and PHE have an established plan to respond to someone who becomes unwell.

China has also introduced port-of-exit screening so people already exhibiting symptoms are not allowed to leave the country.

Diagnosis and analysis

Based on current evidence, Wuhan novel coronavirus presents with flu-like symptoms including a fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing. The current evidence is that most cases appear to be mild. Those who have died in Wuhan appear to have had pre-existing health conditions.

The UK is now one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this new disease. Healthcare professionals who are contacted by a patient with symptoms following travel to Wuhan have been advised to submit samples to PHE for testing. Individuals should be treated in isolation

After the experience of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, PHE developed a series of diagnostic tests to detect any member of the family of coronaviruses. These have been used for several years, and were able to detect the first UK case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012.

With the first reported publication of the genome sequence of a 2019 novel coronavirus, PHE was able to rapidly develop further specific tests for this virus, working with WHO and global network of laboratories.

When a clinician suspects Wuhan novel coronavirus, they take samples from the nose, throat and deeper respiratory samples, package and send them safely to PHE Colindale. PHE can provide a laboratory result from this specific virus on the same working day.

PHE also has the capability to sequence the viral genome and compare this to published sequences from China, if a case occurs. This will provide valuable information on any mutations in the virus over time and allow an improved understanding of how it spreads.

Further information

Published 24 January 2020
Last updated 26 January 2020 +show all updates
  1. Updated figures - no confirmed cases.

  2. Tests figure update - no confirmed cases.

  3. Updated advice

  4. First published.

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