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Coronavirus Infects More Than 8,000 Worldwide

In 1918, the world was in the grip of the Spanish flu, an abnormal and fatal influenza outbreak. It is estimated that between 1918 and 1919, the Spanish flu, or the H1N1 influenza virus, infected roughly one-third of the world's population, and, although an exact number remains unknown, the virus killed about 10 to 20 percent of those infected. Much of the flu's tragedy lay in its abnormality, ignoring the very old or very young, who are usually more susceptible to flus, and instead claiming a demographic that usually beats flu viruses: young adults. The Spanish flu spread to every corner of the planet and was ultimately fatal to about three to six percent of the global population, or an estimated 50 million to 100 million people. 

In the middle of the flu season, from its epicenter of Wuhan, in the Hubei Province of central China, the 2019-nCoV has rapidly gained ground, notoriety, and hosts. Most coronaviruses infect animals instead of humans, however, they can evolve and jump from one species to another, leaving humans to spread it amongst each other. While human coronaviruses are not entirely uncommon, with seven different identified strains, they typically cause a mild to moderate respiratory illness; two of those strains, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and SARS-CoV, are ones that often result in a severe illness. 

While it's no Spanish flu, this new Wuhan coronavirus is one that Chinese officials confirm has caused over 8,200 cases as of 30 January, although the possibility remains that there are more cases yet to be confirmed. The Wuhan virus first emerged on 31 December, 2019, and by 29 January, 2020, the number of confirmed cases was at roughly 6,000, with a death toll of 132. Chinese officials reported today that the number of fatalities has climbed to 170 people. To compare, between 2002 and 2003 it took SARS about nine months to infect more than 8,000 people. For information on pandemic preparations post-SARS, check out Security Management's article, "It's Time to Plan."

According to The New York Times, the World Health Organization will meet today to again debate whether it will label the coronavirus outbreak as an international public health emergency, which could result in coordinated international efforts to tackle the virus and its spread. The WHO met last week but did not then declare 2019-nCoV an emergency.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases outside of China have been identified in at least 20 countries. The United States, Taiwan, Australia, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, France, Germany, Canada, and Vietnam have all reported multiple cases; the Philippines and India are the latest to report at least one person infected by the virus. No reported deaths from the virus have come from outside of China. 

The U.S. Department of State evacuated at least 195 U.S. citizens from the Wuhan area, flying them out to an air force base in southern California on 29 January. The CDC said they will be fully evaluated for three days, and if they present negative for the virus then they will be allowed to return to their homes, where they will continue to be monitored for the next two weeks. Additional evacuations in February are being planned by the State Department.

Within the United States, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department (HHS) stated that there are five confirmed cases. U.S. President Donald Trump announced on 30 January that a new task force led by HHS will prepare for additional cases of the virus.

Although China restricted travel within the country in an attempt to contain the virus, NPR reported that 2019-nCoV has spread to every region of mainland China, with more countries shying away from China in response such as Russia closing its 2,615.5-mile border with the neighboring country. In an interview with an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, Ben Cowling, the article added that this could be just the beginning of the outbreak, with the virus likely to emerge in U.S. cities within the next two to three weeks.

Supporting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross's comments that the virus could result in an upswing for the U.S. economy, travel companies and businesses with manufacturing facilities in China noted in recent earnings calls that they are expecting a slowdown or other negative impact, according to MarketWatch

Major airports are screening passengers for symptoms of the virus, and, according to CNN, several airlines have begun suspending or canceling flights to China on 29 January, including, but not limited to, Air Asia, Air India, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, IndiGo, Lufthansa, and United Airlines. However, some flights are still running to and from China, since the U.S. has not yet issued a travel ban.

The Spanish flu managed to spread across the globe largely because of travel, with both military personnel and civilians able to journey to more countries than in previous decades. With one sneeze or cough, millions of viral particles are ejected into an area, resulting in either airborne or contact transmission, according to a study from the Higher Institute of Health in Rome, Italy.

Security Management also has articles and information on travel safety and duty of care, such as "A Global Safety Plan Protects Corporate Travelers," where a global travel manager for the iRobot Corporation discusses their robust travel safety program and a security manager lists travel best practices.