As health officials confirmed that the coronavirus has reached UAE, here's what you must know about the new virus
29 January 2020| Last updated on 12 February 2020
The UAE Ministry of Health said that residents and tourists are NOT at health risk
On Tuesday, 11th February, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially renamed the coronavirus to COVID-19, in an effort to disassociate the name of the virus from a geographical location, animal, or group of people, as well as to make it more related to the actual disease.
On Wednesday 29th January, the UAE recorded its first case of coronavirus. Local health authorities detected the coronavirus in a Chinese family arriving in the Emirates from Wuhan city, China.
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention confirmed that four people were diagnosed, and an official statement read, "the health condition of those infected is stable and under medical observation", taking all "necessary precautions" as advised by WHO.
The ministry confirmed that the UAE public is not as risk, and officials are "working around the clock to report cases as early as possible".
FREE Novel coronavirus tests to all UAE citizens and expatriates are available.
"The healthcare system is working very efficiently and the ministry is following the situation to ensure the safety and health of everyone in the UAE," the statement said.
The UAE is among the many countries in the world that have actively stepped up their screening of passengers in an effort to stop the virus from spreading.
Health officials, hospitals, and clinics are following guidelines on how to carefully assess for the virus among patients. The criteria include coughing, difficulty breathing, and if they have a travel history to any affected places within the last 14 days.
“Healthcare providers should obtain a detailed travel history for patients being evaluated with fever and acute respiratory illness. Cases with epidemiological exposure, visit to Wuhan or contact with a laboratory-confirmed case should be urgently notified to the relevant health department," the statement read.
What is the coronavirus?
The Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new type of coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. It is a member of the coronavirus family, which is a group of viruses that are found in and causes diseases in mammals, birds, and other animals.
The first case was diagnosed on December 31. Wuhan city, which is the most affected, is under quarantine lockdown by banning travels to and from the city via its major ports.
In humans, coronavirus causes respiratory illnesses and other severe health complications.
Number of people infected and killed by the coronavirus
As of Wednesday, 12th February 2020, Chinese officials confirmed that the number of people infected by this new type of coronavirus surpassed 44,000 people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that fewer cases are found globally, among which are: Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, United States, the UAE, and Vietnam. All international cases have been found and contained, with an active assessment of travellers taking place.
Chinese health officials have confirmed that the coronavirus death toll is above 1,100.
Is there a cure for coronavirus in the UAE?
At the moment, there is no official cure or vaccination for coronavirus.
Where did coronavirus originate from?
Initial reports from the World Health Organisation and Chinese health authorities believe that the new coronavirus came from the Wuhan Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in China, where residents and visitors shop for and consume live or newly slaughtered wild animals.
Such cases of troubling viruses typically originate from infected animal hosts, such as Ebola, and most of the early confirmed patients of coronavirus linked their cases to the Wuhan Huanan seafood market.
Though unconfirmed, new information suggests that the first human infections may have originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where they have been studying coronavirus since 2016.
How worried should you be about coronavirus in the UAE?
UAE residents need not worry. Though the spread of the virus may feel alarming, an overwhelming majority of coronavirus cases are within China, and UAE airports are taking proper measures to health screen incoming passengers.
As of now, the World Health Organisation has yet to declare the coronavirus outbreak as an international public health emergency
Healthcare workers in the UAE and those who frequently work with international activities (such as travel) could be at risk if they unexpectedly come across someone with respiratory symptoms who just travelled to an affected region.
How is the coronavirus transmitted?
The coronavirus is spread by coming in contact with or you are near an infected person. It is transmitted through coughing, sneezing, or touching a carrier of the virus.
Symptoms of coronavirus
According to reports, the coronavirus "spreads before symptoms show", which means people may not know they have the infection but are still carriers of the virus and can spread it.
Symptoms of the coronavirus appear within one to 14 days after infection, so residents are advised to be on the lookout for signs of:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Runny nose
- Generally feeling unwell
It may be easy to associate such symptoms with a common fever or cold, so it is recommended that you consult a doctor immediately upon experiencing these symptoms.
How to reduce risk of coronavirus in the UAE
You can reduce your risks of coronavirus by frequently washing your hands, minimise contact with people who have a fever or cough, thoroughly cook your meats and eggs, avoid contact with live and farm animals, and if you are able to - limit your travels to affected regions in China.
When commuting in the UAE, be sure to wear face masks to limit your exposure as the Dubai metro and RTA public buses can get very crowded.
If you are a UAE resident or visitor who recently came in contact with someone who travelled from or you arrived in the Emirates from an affected region, seek immediate health assessment.
This article will be updated with new information as events develop.