Europe prepares for ‘credible threat’ of Chinese flu pandemic spreading despite likelihood is considered low

epa08144403 Medical staff transfer patients to Jinyintan hospital where patients infected with a new strain of Coronavirus identified as the cause of the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak are treated in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, 20 January 2020. More cases of the mysterious SARS-like virus linked to the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak were reported in China on 20 January 2020, bringing the total number of cases to more than 200 with three deaths so far. EPA-EFE/STRINGER CHINA OUT

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The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Monday considered the likelihood of introduction of the virus to the EU to be “low”, warning however that the risk of arrival would increase in late January as people travelled to and from China to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

The Platform for European Preparedness Against (Re-)emerging Epidemics (PREPARE), an EU-funded project aimed at rapidly responding to outbreaks, activated its Mode 1 on Tuesday morning

“We consider that there’s a credible threat for a pandemic also in Europe,” Herman Goossens, PREPARE’s coordinator and the Director of Clinical Pathology at Antwerp’s University Hospital, told Euronews.

PREPARE’s Mode 1 involves getting clinical sites and diagnostics labs ready to deal with cases on European soil but also see researchers from various institutions discuss the research questions including the best treatment strategies for patients.

The outbreak currently concerning health officials worldwide is of a new strain of coronavirus (nCoV) which had not been previously identified in humans and for which there is no vaccine. Among the more serious viruses in the coronavirus family are the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

According to the World Health Organisation, which convened an emergency meeting on the outbreak to be held on Wednesday, common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties with pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and kidney failure among the most serious symptoms.

But contrary to previous pandemics, the international response has so far been “very fast”, Herman Goossens stressed.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control/ Euronews

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