by Darren Gibson
THE University of Glasgow has issued a warning to its staff and students planning to travel to China following a deadly outbreak of coronavirus.
A post found on the university’s Twitter page reads: “Staff and students planning to travel to China are asked to seek advice on the Coronavirus outbreak. Although the risk appears to be low, people are advised not to travel to Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak. Our thoughts are with anyone who has been affected.”
The infectious disease has reportedly killed 9 people so far, and with the Chinese New Year now approaching, the Chinese government and health officials are worried that the disease could spread further, with a heavy portion of the population set to travel for the holidays.
Symptoms of the virus include sore throat, cough, a runny nose and fever, it is said to cause pneumonia and does not respond to antibiotic treatment.
At least 453 cases had been confirmed on Chinese mainland according to Chinese health authorities, primarily focused in the city of Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei Province.
However, Dr Antonia Ho, clinical senior lecturer and consultant in infectious diseases at the University of Glasgow, talked down the chances of the deadly disease reaching the UK, Dr Ho said: “It is possible. At present, most confirmed cases have been to Wuhan and had contacted with infected patients from Wuhan.
“The UK will start monitoring persons coming off flights from Wuhan to Heathrow (3 times a week) as per BBC report today. However, there are now reported cases in multiple other Chinese provinces, including big cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.”
Drawing comparisons from the deadly SARS outbreak that resulted in 774 deaths between 2002 and 2003, Dr Ho stated: “This novel coronavirus is in the same family as the virus that caused SARS, but only share around 80% of the same genes, which means there may be differences in the severity of disease it causes as well as transmissibility.
“Both outbreaks started in China, and have evolved very quickly. It is too early to say how this outbreak will evolve and whether the severity of the outbreak will be similar to the SARS outbreak in 2002/3.”
A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow stated in response to their twitter post: “This is an advisory note only. Like many universities we do have a number of Chinese students and wanted to provide guidance to them and to academic colleagues, to monitor the Foreign Office webpages for ongoing advice.”
Health officials will convene for an emergency meeting in Geneva today to decide if the rapidly developing outbreak constitutes an international public health emergency.