You will have seen media coverage on the spread of the new coronavirus, a virus of the same family of viruses as the type which caused the SARS (Serious Acquired Respiratory Syndrome) worldwide outbreak in 2002-2003. The risk to the UK is currently low and guidance for clinical and NHS services and precautionary port health measures are now in place.
At this early stage, the LRF is having difficulty in determining a single source of credible information and obtaining clear advice on what actions may be required. The LRF is liaising with MHCLG and once we have received some clearer direction, we will endeavour to share any significant information with LRF partners (i.e. single points of contact). We will also seek views on any multi-agency actions, where appropriate. Until then the LRF’s position is one of maintaining a ‘watching brief’.
Jim McManus, HCC’s Director of Public Health has also provided the following advice for partners:
The risk to the UK is currently low - there is no cause for alarm and media reports suggesting this virus is of similar severity to Ebola are extremely inaccurate and unhelpful.
Guidance is being issued to all clinical services including GPs locally. The only thing anyone need do is reinforce and practice universal hygiene measures that we all should do (but often don't) for all respiratory infections like colds. It is highly probable that the method of spread is the same as colds, flu and other coronaviruses: droplets. Hygiene measures are the most effective way of limiting spread of all these viruses, especially since we are in flu season.
Hygiene measures are:
- Sneeze into disposable tissues 'Catch it', dispose of them 'Bin it' and then wash hands with warm soap and water or use hand gel if not possible to wash ('Kill it').
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face unless you've just washed your hands.
- Ensure surfaces which get droplets on them from coughs and sneezes are cleaned with ordinary detergents regularly if people are showing symptoms of colds and flu (e.g. handles, worktops).
At this stage there is no need for any further local measures. We should all be doing this all the time especially during cold and 'flu season. The Chinese authorities are putting in place significant measures to contain the outbreak because of local circumstances. There is no need for these here as things stand. The virus has a range of symptoms from cold and ‘flu like symptoms to breathing difficulties. Government has issued advice for travellers to and returning from Wuhan and heavily affected cities and these can all be found on the Public Health England website.
Please cascade the above information and advice within your organisation, as appropriate.
Owen Tomlinson, Local Resilience Forum Manager
Hertfordshire County Council
Office: 01992 555959, Mobile: 07803 886261