Dr Bruce Aylward, the Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization, and leader of the WHO team that visited Wuhan in China offers advice on containing the coronavirus in the interview below by the UK’s Channel 4 News.
According to Aylward, one of the most important elements of a successful fight against the virus is a well-informed public. People should be looking for the most likely and obvious symptoms, which are “a fever and a cough, not a cold, not a runny nose”.
Based on 55,924 laboratory confirmed cases in China, typical signs and symptoms include: fever (87.9%), dry cough (67.7%), fatigue (38.1%), mucus production (33.4%), shortness of breath (18.6%), sore throat (13.9%), headache (13.6%), muscle and joint pain (14.8%), chills (11.4%), nausea or vomiting (5.0%), nasal congestion (4.8%), diarrhea (3.7%), and hemoptysis (bloody mucus) (0.9%), and conjunctival congestion (0.8%).
The main things he learned in China, where infection rates have slowed dramatically, are that China did a good job of informing the population, which became the main surveillance system. Chinese authorities also planned ways to find the close contacts of those infected and quarantine them. In addition, they planned hospital capacity and a capability to isolate patients.
He says the key is asking whether there are any barriers to finding potential cases and getting them tested and isolated quickly. Those barriers can be materials not being available in the right language, the population not really knowing what they are looking for or not knowing how to get tested. Telling them to call their GP might not work. They might not be able to get through or their GP might not be working over the weekend.
Getting the public to follow infection prevention recommendations is critical too. The WHO recommends regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
Not touching your face is another common recommendation. However, numerous videos, such as this one posted by the Washington Post that show people offering this advice and touching their own faces, demonstrate how difficult this is.
The Swiss government published its own infection prevention recommendations, which include most of the WHO recommendations and staying at home if you have a high temperature and a cough, avoiding handshakes, calling ahead before going to the doctor’s or the emergency department, and disposing of used paper tissues in a sealed waste bin.
For medical questions in Switzerland there is a coronavirus infoline +41 58 463 00 00, which is open around the clock.