News from the FDA/CDC

Mystery pneumonia in China has health officials on alert


An outbreak of pneumonia of unknown etiology has occurred in Wuhan, China, according to a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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As of Jan. 5, 2020, 59 cases of the disease have been reported by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. The cluster of cases is linked to the Wuhan South China Seafood City market where – in addition to seafood – chickens, bats, marmots, and other animals were sold. That market has been closed since Jan. 1, 2020, for cleaning and disinfection.

Wuhan health authorities are closely monitoring over 150 contacts for symptoms. Laboratory results have been negative for influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus, and the viruses that caused SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). So far, there are no reports of person-to-person transmission or health care worker infection of this pneumonia.

The World Health Organization reported that, as of Dec. 31, 2019, about one-quarter of patients were severely ill with the pneumonia and the rest were stable. Symptoms reported include fever, difficulty breathing, and chest radiographs showing invasive lesions in both lungs. All patients are being treated in isolation and efforts to identify the pathogen are ongoing.

The WHO is monitoring the situation closely and is in close contact with Chinese health authorities.

The CDC has recommended that travelers to Wuhan, a city of over 19 million people, avoid animal and meat markets, avoid contact with sick people, and wash hands often with soap and water. Travelers who have been in Wuhan recently and who experience respiratory symptoms should notify the local health department immediately. In addition, the CDC has issued a Level 1 travel alert, which recommends travelers observe usual precautions against infectious disease.

In addition, the CDC recommends that, for symptomatic patients with a history of travel to Wuhan, caution should be exercised in the health care setting. “Ask such patients to don a surgical mask as soon as they are identified. Conduct their evaluation in a private room with the door closed. Personnel entering the room to evaluate the patient should use contact precautions and wear an N95 disposable facepiece respirator. For patients admitted for inpatient care, implement contact and airborne isolation precautions, in addition to standard precautions, until further information becomes available. For additional infection control guidance see:”

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