The Zambia Medical Association is concerned about the outbreak of a novel respiratory virus with an epicenter in Hubei Province, China.
Association President Dr Samson Chisele says the new virus belongs to a group of viruses termed coronavirus.
Dr Chisele says this is a large group of viruses that are common among animals which in rare cases they become zoonotic and cause flu-like symptoms.
He says strains from this group of viruses are responsible for the SARS epidemic in 2002 and the MERS outbreak in the Middle East in 2012.
Dr Chisele says the current virus, code-named 2019-nCoV was first identified in Wuhan City of China in mid-December, 2019 and reported to WHO on 31 st December, 2019.
“According to media reports, the virus has so far infected more than 3000 people and claimed 81 lives. 5 cases of infection have been confirmed in the USA. The virus spreads through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, and contact with infected objects and then transferring the virus to your mouth or nose”, he said.
Dr Chisele said symptoms include a runny nose, sore throat, headache, fever, cough and the general feeling of being unwell.
He said there are currently no vaccines to this infection, but measures to implement to reduce risk of infection include: washing hands often with soap and water, avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, avoiding contact with infected people, avoiding crowded places, and reporting any suspected cases (preferably by phone on established toll lines), especially from people who recently travelled to China within the past 14 days.
Dr Chisele said the Association is working closely with the Ministry of Health to increase epidemic preparedness, including increased surveillance at points of entry into Zambia, among other measures.