Status:
Active
Health alert:
AL20001
Date Issued:
10 Jan 2020
Issued by:
Dr Brett Sutton, Chief Health Officer, Victoria
Issued to:
Clinicans and patients

Key messages

  • There is a cluster of cases of viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China. The cause is being reported in various media outlets as a novel coronavirus.
  • The cluster is centered at the Wuhan South China Seafood City Market (also called the South China Seafood Wholesale Market and the Hua Nan Seafood Market).
  • Travelers to Wuhan, China, should avoid living or dead animals, animal markets, and contact with sick people.
  • Be alert for patients who have travelled to Wuhan, China, within two weeks of onset of illness and who present with fever and respiratory symptoms. Please place a surgical mask on and isolate these patients as soon as they are identified in a negative pressure room or single room and notify the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 651 160.

What is the issue?

There is a cluster of cases of viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China. As of January 5, 2020, local, provincial, and national health commissions in China have reported a total of 59 cases with no deaths. The cluster is centered at the Wuhan South China Seafood City (also called the South China Seafood Wholesale Market and the Hua Nan Seafood Market). In addition to seafood, the market sells chickens, bats, marmots, and other wild animals. The market has been closed since January 1, 2020, for cleaning and disinfection.

Health authorities in China are monitoring more than 150 close contacts for illness. To date, there have been no reports of spread from person-to-person or to healthcare workers.

Although the cause of this cluster is unknown, there is concern and reports that the cause is a novel coronavirus. Local authorities have reported negative laboratory results for seasonal influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus, and two specific coronaviruses known to cause respiratory illness (severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS] and Middle East respiratory syndrome [MERS])..

Who is at risk?

Only people who have travelled to Wuhan, China are considered to be at risk currently. Travelers to other areas of China, or contacts of travelers to Wuhan are not considered to be at risk. This information may change as more becomes known about the characteristics of the virus.

Symptoms and transmission

Reported symptoms include fever, shortness of breath and bilateral lung infiltrates on chest x-ray.

The current definition for a suspected case in Victoria is as follows:

Travel to Wuhan within 14 days of symptom onset AND fever or history of fever AND respiratory symptoms

This case definition information may change as further information emerges. There have been no reports of spread from person-to-person or to healthcare workers. 

Recommendations

Clinicians are asked to be alert for patients of any age presenting with symptoms of pneumonia who meet the suspected case definition above, particularly if they have had contact with the Wuhan South China Seafood City Market. Please ensure that patients presenting with pneumonia to triage are being asked about travel specific to Wuhan, China.

If you have a patient who meets the suspected case definition above:

  • Place a surgical mask on the patient.
  • Undertake an assessment in a private room with the door closed if negative pressure ventilation is not available.
  • Apply airborne, contact and standard precautions - in particular, wear a P2 respirator / N95 respirator during any assessment.
  • Notify the Department of Health and Human Services immediately on 1300 651 160, who will assist with conducting a public health risk assessment and short epidemiological questionnaire for suspected cases.
  • Undertake testing in your hospital for alternative causes as soon as possible, in particular for respiratory viruses using multiplex PCR if available;
  • After discussion with the Department, you may be advised to take:
    • upper respiratory samples (combined nose and throat swabs, or nasopharyngeal swabs)
    • lower respiratory samples lower respiratory tract sample if the lower tract is involved (bronchoalveolar lavage, tracheal aspirate, pleural fluid, sputum)
    • whole blood.
  • These samples are to be forward for coronavirus testing at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory.

If you traveled to Wuhan and feel sick, you should:

  • Avoid contact with others, except for seeking medical care.
  • Don’t travel while sick.
  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency department, call ahead and tell the doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

Travelers to Wuhan, China, should avoid living or dead animals, animal markets and contact with sick people, and should wash hands often with soap and water.

More information

Clinical information

 WHO Statement Regarding Cluster of Pneumonia Cases in Wuhan, China

Consumer information

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention - Pneumonia of Unknown Cause in China

Contacts

For more information please contact the Communicable Disease Prevention and Control section at the Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 651 160 (24 hours)..