The Superintendence of Public Health is monitoring the situation of the clusters of pneumonia detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and is following the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Following the first reports of a cluster of pneumonia cases in the Chinese Wuhan municipality at the end of December 2019, Chinese authorities identified a as causative agent a new coronavirus which is genetically related to SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV at the beginning of 2020.
To date, almost 500 human infections in China as well as exported cases in Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the United States have been confirmed. The outbreak in Wuhan has initially been linked to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting a possible zoonotic origin to the outbreak.
However, so far, the source of infection remains unknown and can therefore still be active, which could lead to further cases being detected. The outbreak investigations are on-going and in this rapidly evolving context.
The WHO convened on Wednesday 22nd of January and Thursday 23rd January an Emergency Committee to determine if this outbreak should be categorised as a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concerns). It was decided that it is too early to declare a PHEIC, however, WHO called for all countries to have preparedness and response plans in place with a focus on early detection, testing, and isolation of cases.
Malta is taking the necessary precautions in relations to coronavirus, through various actions:
- A coordinating team for national response has been set up and is being led by the Superintendence of Public Health.
- There is constant communication with WHO, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the EU Health Security Committee. The European Council is organising regular teleconferences for all Member States to which Malta Public Health authorities participate to receive updates and advice on actions.
- Surveillance and preparedness for case finding enhanced
- Communication with media, advice to clinicians and traveller’s advice.
- Preparedness at Mater Dei Hospital and Primary Care Organising of laboratory testing via coordination with labs abroad and local testing, infection control measures and preparedness at hospital level should there be a suspected case
- Travellers should:
a. Avoid visiting wet markets or places where live or dead animals are handled.
b. Avoid contact with sick persons, in particular with respiratory symptoms.
c. Adhere to good hand and food hygiene
d. Avoid contact with animals, their excretions or droppings.
Travellers with acute respiratory symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, cough or sore throat) within 14 days of visiting Wuhan are advised to contact their doctor and indicate their travel history to Wuhan and contact the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Unit on 21324086.
In addition, due to the currently high activity of the seasonal influenza epidemic in China, travellers should receive seasonal influenza vaccination at least two weeks prior to travel to prevent severe disease.
No travel restrictions recommended as yet as per WHO advice.