What steps could the UK take to deal with coronavirus cases?

Given that there is no known vaccine or treatment for the new outbreak of coronavirus, how can it be controlled and how would the UK handle any cases?

Professor Neil Ferguson, director of the Medical Research Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, said it is not currently known whether, if there is a growing epidemic, it is controllable.

He said the UK would not be able to implement some of the measures China has deployed against outbreaks in the past, including isolating tens of thousands of people.

So what can be done?

China virus: confirmed cases
China virus: confirmed cases

– What measures would be taken?

Cases would have to be diagnosed and isolated as quickly as possible in order to prevent onward transmission, and to ensure what is called contact tracing follow-up, according to Prof Ferguson.

This would involve identifying who those individuals have come into contact with. And if not isolating them, tracking them through time – daily or more frequently – to see if they develop symptoms and testing them.

– What action that has been taken in past epidemics could be implemented again?

Attempts could be made to reduce community transmission through social distancing measures.

These include reducing the occurrence of mass gatherings, said Prof Ferguson.

– What has been done so far?

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has issued clinical guidance for the detection and diagnosis of Wuhan novel coronavirus and Public Health England has developed a diagnostic test.

People travelling to Wuhan should:

🤧 maintain good hand, respiratory + personal hygiene ❌ avoid visiting animal + bird markets ❌ avoid visiting people who are ill 🤒 seek medical attention if they develop symptoms 📱 phone ahead before attending any health services

— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) January 22, 2020

The UK is also one of the first countries outside China to have a prototype specific laboratory test for this novel disease.

Public Health England says clinicians in primary and secondary care have already received advice, covering initial detection and investigation of possible cases, infection prevention and control, and clinical diagnostics.

An algorithm has been developed to support NHS 111 in identifying suspected potential cases.

There are a number of infectious disease units around the country able to take suspected patients.

– What is the situation at present?

There are no known cases but enhanced monitoring will be put in place for all direct flights from Wuhan to the UK, the DHSC has said.

This includes providing advice to travellers if they feel unwell and what symptoms to look out for.