UPDATE: Corona Virus, drone spies, pets, Facebook censorship, CDC warning and ending ‘wet’ markets

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HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Jan 31 declared the Wuhan coronavirus a public health emergency and ordered any U.S. citizens returning from the center of the outbreak in China to be quarantined for two weeks.

The United Nations’ World Health Organization on Jan. 9 announced an outbreak of a new—or novel—coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan, China. On Jan. 31 they finally declared it a global emergency.

Meanwhile, in a series of unconventional responses, the Chinese authorities are using all their creepy centralized power (as we saw in the hospital builds yesterday) to enforce hygiene measures not usually practiced by Chinese peasant farmers. Here you can see then being shouted at by drones!

In the three weeks since the first WHO meeting, the virus has intensified in China and is now spreading across the globe. This new coronavirus has taken a declared 170 lives in China. 

Yahoo News Australia noted that a Chinese nurse posted a video last week in which she claimed the real number of infections is ten times as high as the figure reported by the Chinese government. After asserting that over 90,000 people have actually been diagnosed with the Wuhan virus so far, she pleaded for people around the world to send masks and other protective equipment to China to slow the spread of the disease.

Yahoo quoted Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating on Thursday that the death rate from the Wuhan virus is roughly two percent. This would be worse than most flu epidemics and much worse than the early estimates for Wuhan, but not nearly as deadly as SARS, the 2003 epidemic in China that killed about ten percent of its victims.

A Hong Kong-based news outlet called Initium Media alleged on Wednesday that the Chinese Communist government is secretly cremating victims of the Wuhan coronavirus to keep the death toll down.

The virus can be spread through humans – and also, as Dr. Li Lanjuan an epidemiologist with the Chinese National Health Commission made clear, through mammals.

Amidst a great deal of confusion, Facebook decided to support China by declaring it will take down “misinformation” about China’s fast-spreading coronavirus. It classifies this misinformation as: “false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities,” saying such content would violate its ban on misinformation leading to “physical harm.” This kind of heavy handed censorship is the main reason nobody trusts the Chinese Government to tell the truth. 

Yesterday, the World Health Organization held its second meeting.

Representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China reported on the current situation and the public health measures being taken. They claim there are now 7711 confirmed and 12167 suspected cases throughout the country. Of the confirmed cases, 1370 are severe and 170 people have died. 124 people have recovered and been discharged from hospital. 

The WHO Secretariat provided an overview of the situation in other countries. There are now 83 cases in 18 countries. Of these, only 7 had no history of travel in China. There has been human-to-human transmission in 3 countries outside China. One of these cases is severe and there have been no deaths. 

Image: Chinese authorities are not amused by this satirical version of their flag printed in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten

Conclusions of WHO 2nd meeting and advice to world

The Committee welcomed the “leadership and political commitment of the very highest levels of Chinese government, their commitment to transparency, and the efforts made to investigate and contain the current outbreak.” “China quickly identified the virus and shared its sequence, so that other countries could diagnose it quickly and protect themselves, which has resulted in the rapid development of diagnostic tools.”

The Committee also acknowledged that there are still many unknowns, cases have now been reported in five WHO regions in one month, and human-to-human transmission has occurred outside Wuhan and outside China. 

The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk. It is important to note that as the situation continues to evolve, so will the strategic goals and measures to prevent and reduce spread of the infection. The Committee agreed that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and proposed the following advice to be issued as Temporary Recommendations. 

The Committee emphasized that the declaration of a PHEIC should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation for China, its people, and the actions China has taken on the frontlines of this outbreak, with transparency, and, it is to be hoped, with success. In line with the need for global solidarity, the Committee felt that a global coordinated effort is needed to enhance preparedness in other regions of the world that may need additional support for that. 

Advice on traveling TO China

Traveling back from China to the US? Here’s what to expect at the airport:

CDC and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are implementing enhanced health screenings to detect travelers with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing when entering the United States.

The screening procedures include:

  • Travelers fill out a short questionnaire about their travel, any symptoms, and contact information.
  • CDC staff take the temperature of each traveler with a hand-held non-contact thermometer (thermometers that do not touch the skin) and observe the traveler for cough or difficulty breathing. If sick travelers are identified, CDC evaluates them further to determine whether they should be taken to a hospital for medical evaluation and to get care as needed.

If the traveler does not have symptoms, CDC staff will provide health information cards to take with them. The cards tell travelers what symptoms to look out for, and what to do if they develop symptoms within 14 days after leaving China.

This health assessment and request for persons to monitor their health is part of a layered approach to limiting the spread of disease. When used with other public health measures, enhanced entry screening can strengthen our efforts to protect the United States from 2019-nCoV and other diseases.

Advice to travelers FROM China:

All travelers from China, including business travelers, people who visited friends and family, and humanitarian workers should take the following steps.

First, watch for any changes in your health for 14 days after leaving China. If you get a fever or develop a cough or difficulty breathing during this 14-day period, avoid contact with others. Call your doctor or healthcare provider to tell them about your symptoms and your recent travel. They will provide further instruction about steps to take before your medical visit to help to reduce the risk that you will spread your illness to other people in the office or waiting room, if that is what has made you sick.  Don’t travel while you are sick.

Advice to China from the senior fellow for national security affairs, Peter Brookes at The Heritage Foundation

As Chinese public health officials strive to contain the virus, it’s important to identify three early lessons that can be drawn from the outbreak and the initial response to it to prevent this Chinese epidemic—and others that will undoubtedly follow—from becoming a pandemic in our highly mobile, interconnected world.

1. China’s wild- and exotic-game markets must be shut down—for good.

In China, wild and exotic game is found in so-called “wet markets”—a common food outlet in the country. At these markets, it’s not uncommon for merchants to sell a variety of wild and exotic animals, both dead or alive, for human consumption and perceived medicinal benefits. 

In 2002, a viral cousin of the 2019-nCoV called SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) surfaced in China, killing nearly 800 people and affecting 26 countries

In 2017, researchers determined that the virus originated with bats, which are coronavirus carriers, and was transmitted to civet cats, which were then sold at a wet market in China’s Guangdong province.

The virus then passed from those animals to human victims. 

Trade in all wild game was reportedly banned in China in 2003 after the SARS epidemic, but restrictions on some animals were loosened over time. It’s not clear how rigorously regulations were enforced.  

Consequently, while the exact transmission path of this outbreak is being investigated, the presence of these wild- and exotic-animal markets very likely poses a significant threat to public health in China and beyond.  

2. Covering up an outbreak is unacceptable.

The 2019-nCoV virus reportedly surfaced in Wuhan on Dec. 8. The local government waited more than three weeks to notify residents and to act. Then, officials downplayed the seriousness of the disease for several more weeks. 

In a stunning admission on Chinese state television, Zhou Xianwang, Wuhan’s mayor, acknowledged that his government failed to provide “timely and satisfactory” information about the outbreak, seeming to fault Beijing for failing to authorize local officials to notify the public of the epidemic.  

That’s clearly unacceptable, especially in light of the SARS experience, when a Chinese cover-up also occurred, and in light of the high domestic and international travel rates of the Chinese people today. 

To minimize the spread of any potential epidemic, a host country must not only respond rapidly, but provide full transparency to advise not only its own citizenry, but the international community as well. 

3. International coordination and cooperation is critical.

An outbreak of a new, virulent virus such as 2019-nCoV is a global public health concern, having now spread to four continents. As such, the outbreak requires a coordinated, cooperative international response to prevent its spread in China and abroad.

As early as Jan. 6, U.S. officials offered to send a team of experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to China to help contain and understand the outbreak. But that initial offer was reportedly rejected. 

Despite repeated offers, Chinese officials are still refusing to accept U.S. assistance, though there is reporting that China is considering help from the World Health Organization. If so, Beijing must follow through on this—but as just a first step in cooperating internationally.  

Indeed, China’s initial attitude toward international assistance only served to reduce the regime’s ability to respond to this deeply troubling outbreak in a more effective and efficient manner. It has also hampered international public health officials’ efforts to understand this novel virus.

CDC officials—and other foreign health officials—should not have to rely on press reports, Chinese government press releases, or uninvestigated anecdotes to develop an understanding of this outbreak or to build an effective response.

In dealing with an emerging crisis such as this one in its early stages, the fundamentals apply, including embracing good public health practices, full transparency, and international coordination and cooperation.

China needs to do better—or we all could pay a heavy price.     

Peter Brooks’s comments are reproduced from The Daily Signal with permission.