A Chinese tourist has been confirmed as the first person in Finland to test positive for the Wuhan coronavirus.
The woman is from Wuhan, and traveled last Wednesday 22nd January to Finland for a holiday, just before Chinese authorities locked down her home city.
The 32-year old initially went to Ivalo health centre on Tuesday evening after suffering from symptoms of a respiratory illness for two days, and was put in isolation before being transferred to the Lapland Central Hospital in Rovaniemi.
“It was to be expected that cases brought by tourists would also become apparent in Finland” says Mika Salminen from the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare THL.
“The risk of spreading the disease in Finland is still very low, so don’t worry” he adds.
Officials estimate there could be 15 other people who were potentially exposed to infection from the patient, and their health will be monitored for symptoms over the next 14 days.
Scientists have confirmed that someone infected with the virus can pass it on to another human being, even if they’re not showing signs of illness.
“Finland has prepared for potential cases. Healthcare and laboratories have operating models in place. Hospitals have the capacity to research and treat coronavirus infections under isolation conditions” explains Salminen.
The coronavirus situation in China
The positive diagnosis in Finland comes as the World Health Organisation says the “whole world needs to be on alert.”
WHO officials will meet on Thursday to discuss whether the new strain, and the spreading epidemic, should be considered a global health emergency.
So far there have been at least 132 deaths and more than 6000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported in China, and more than a dozen other countries.
Chinese authorities have imposed a range of travel restrictions, and the city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the virus – plus two smaller cities nearby, are on lockdown.
The Chinese government is building two new hospitals in Wuhan to treat people infected by the virus, and 200 air decontamination units from Finland will be installed at one of the new medical centres.
“Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO’s highest priority” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on a visit to Beijing this week.
“We appreciate the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, especially the commitment from top leadership, and the transparency they have demonstrated, including sharing data and genetic sequence of the virus” he adds.
A number of airlines have cancelled their China flights over the spread of the virus, while Finnair has said it will suspend five services between Helsinki and China due to lower passenger numbers.
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