Wed | Apr 8, 2020

UN meeting ponders fast-track drugs, vaccines for new virus

Published:Wednesday | February 12, 2020 | 12:13 AM

GENEVA (AP):

The World Health Organization convened outside experts Tuesday to fast-track promising tests, drugs and vaccines to help slow the outbreak of a new virus that emerged in China that has killed more than 1,000 people and spread to two dozen other countries.

The new coronavirus was only identified late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan and there are no licensed drugs or vaccines. Diagnostic tests have been developed by several laboratories, but there are no rapid tests available.

To date, the virus has infected more than 43,000 people and has killed 1,007, with 99 per cent of the cases found in China. Two dozen other countries have reported 393 cases of the virus, with one death in the Philippines. Jamaica has no confirmed cases.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the epidemic was ““very much an emergency” for China, but also “one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world.” He said there was still a window of opportunity to shut down the outbreak.

At least 60 million people in central China are in a government-ordered lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the virus, and health authorities around the world are racing to track down the contacts of infected people and isolate confirmed cases.

In Japan, more than 3,700 people remain quarantined aboard a cruise ship in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, after dozens of passengers and crew tested positive for the virus.

“It’s hard to believe that just two months ago, this virus – which has come to captivate the attention of media, financial markets and political leaders – was completely unknown to us,” said Tedros.

Protect yourself

Wash your hands

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub eliminates the virus if it is on your hands.

Practise respiratory hygiene

When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

Why? Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing prevent the spread of germs and viruses. If you sneeze or cough into your hands, you may contaminate objects or people that you touch.

Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever.

Why? When someone who is infected with a respiratory disease, like 2019-nCoV, coughs or sneezes they project small droplets containing the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention