UK doctors told to ‘lock in’ suspected China coronavirus patients

Doctors in the UK have been told to lock patients in a room and leave straight away if they suspect they have the deadly Chinese coronavirus.

The extraordinary guidance was issued by Public Health England amid fears the contagious illness has already made its way into Britain.

Five Chinese patients with coronavirus-like symptoms are being treated in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but none are confirmed to be the vicious disease.

The PHE guidance, which was issued to GP practice doctors this week, reads: ‘If [the Wuhan coronavirus] is considered possible when a consultation is already in progress, withdraw from the room, close the door and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Experts say the difficulty of containing the coronavirus is that so many patients have mild, cold-like symptoms and don't realise they have the infection – but it can quickly turn deadly

Experts say the difficulty of containing the coronavirus is that so many patients have mild, cold-like symptoms and don’t realise they have the infection – but it can quickly turn deadly

So far coronavirus has killed 18 people and infected hundreds in 10 countries - but experts predict the true number of cases could be in the thousands

So far coronavirus has killed 18 people and infected hundreds in 10 countries – but experts predict the true number of cases could be in the thousands

‘Avoid physical examination of a suspected case. The patient should remain in the room with the door closed. Belongings and waste should remain in the room.

‘Advise others not to enter the room. If a clinical history still needs to be obtained or completed, do this by telephone.

‘The patient should not be allowed to use communal toilet facilities

‘Instruct them to not touch anything or anyone when walking to the toilet. Instruct the patient to wash their hands thoroughly after toileting.’ 

Health bosses around the globe are on high alert because the virus is far more contagious than previously thought and can spread via a simple cough or sneeze.

It has been ravaging its way through Asia over the last week, infecting more than 600 people and killing 18 in 10 different countries.

Three passengers – a man and two children – arrive at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 3 this afternoon after flying from China

Three passengers – a man and two children – arrive at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3 this afternoon after flying from China

A picture captured today shows healthcare workers fitted with face masks helping a mother and child in Hong Kong

A picture captured today shows healthcare workers fitted with face masks helping a mother and child in Hong Kong

Coronavirus: What we know so far 

What is this virus?

The virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a large family of pathogens, most of which cause mild respiratory infections such as the common cold.

But coronaviruses can also be deadly. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is caused by a coronavirus and killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Can it kill?

Yes. Seventeen people have so far died after testing positive for the virus. What are the symptoms?

Its symptoms are typically a fever, cough and trouble breathing, but some patients have developed pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening infection that causes inflammation of the small air sacs in the lungs. People carrying the novel coronavirus may only have mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. They may assume they have a common cold and not seek medical attention, experts fear.

How is it detected?

The virus’s genetic sequencing was released by scientists in China to the rest of the world to enable other countries to quickly diagnose potential new cases. This helps other countries respond quickly to disease outbreaks.

To contain the virus, airports are detecting infected people with temperature checks. But as with every virus, it has an incubation period, meaning detection is not always possible because symptoms have not appeared yet.

How did it start and spread?

The first cases identified were among people connected to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.

Cases have since been identified elsewhere which could have been spread through human-to-human transmission.

What are countries doing to prevent the spread?

Countries in Asia have stepped up airport surveillance. They include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines.

Australia and the US are also screening patients for a high temperature, and the UK announced it will screen passengers returning from Wuhan.

Is it similar to anything we’ve ever seen before?

Experts have compared it to the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The epidemic started in southern China and killed more than 700 people in mainland China, Hong Kong and elsewhere

But experts predict the true number of cases could be in the thousands and it may kill as many as two in 100. 

Health authorities and university experts say it is likely cases will appear in Europe and the UK. 

No cases have been confirmed in the UK yet, but the Government last night screened patients arriving at Heathrow from the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak, Wuhan.

At least 15 medical workers in Wuhan have become infected while treating patients with the virus.  

If the patient is critically ill, they should be put into an ambulance, PHE said.

But otherwise, a hospital should be phoned ahead and warned and the patient must be told to get there without using public transport or a taxi.  

It’s believed that the source of the virus were the live animals traded in Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the largest of its kind in the city of Wuhan.

The Chinese authorities have urged its people not to travel in and out of Wuhan for the upcoming Lunar New Year, and strengthened the health screening in transport hubs across the nation.

And the government of Wuhan has ordered all residents to wear face masks in public places. 

A third city in China went into lockdown today while officials battle to curb the epidemic. 

Major Chinese New Year events in Beijing have been cancelled, authorities in Ezhou have shut down train stations, and Huanggang has announced it will suspend public buses and trains as well, following the example of Wuhan, the locked-down city at the centre of the outbreak. 

Three more countries have today announced they have recorded cases of the infection – Singapore, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia

In Singapore, a 66-year-old man who had flown from Wuhan with his family on Monday is recovering in hospital. A 37-year-old companion is also in hospital under observation but has not been diagnosed.

In Vietnam, a Chinese father a son are in hospital in Ho Chi Minh City after flying there from Wuhan and becoming ill. They are in ‘good condition’, according to Vietnamese authorities. 

And India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, Vellamvelly Muraleedharan, confirmed on Twitter that an Indian nurse working in Saudi Arabia has been diagnosed with the infection and is ‘recovering well’ in hospital. 

This means the illness has now spread to 10 countries, including the US, and European health officials fear the never-before-seen virus will reach the continent where the UK and other nations are already on high alert. 

It was revealed today that an American man infected with the deadly virus – which Chinese officials have warned will mutate and become deadlier – came into close contact with at least 16 people before he was put in isolation.  

The World Health Organisation is facing increasing pressure to declare the crisis a public health emergency, like it has done for Ebola and Zika in the past.  Health chiefs will meet again later today to make a final verdict.    

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