As Authorities Work to Contain Coronavirus, Direct Relief Prepares to Assist

Direct Relief is offering N95 masks and other personal protection equipment, such as gowns, goggles and gloves, to health care partners involved in screening patients.



Travelers wearing face masks wait at the departure hall of West Kowloon Station on January 23, 2020, in Hong Kong, China. Hong Kong reported its first two cases of Wuhan coronavirus infections as the number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to seventeen on Wednesday and cases have been reported in other countries including the United States,Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

Public health officials and epidemiologists are working around the clock to contain the Wuhan Virus, which has contributed to 18 deaths and 630 cases in multiple countries.

In late December, the World Health Organization was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia detected in Wuhan City, in the Hubei Province of China. Soon after that, the virus was identified by Chinese authorities as a Coronavirus, which can cause symptoms of a common cold or trigger serious diseases, like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The virus can be passed from human to human, and experts describe the Wuhan virus as a particularly aggressive strain, resulting in pneumonia, fevers, and general difficulty breathing. Organ failure has been documented in the most severe cases; however, most people that have contracted the virus have experienced only mild symptoms. There is no treatment or vaccine specific to this virus.

In response, Direct Relief is offering N95 masks and other personal protection equipment, such as gowns, goggles, and gloves, to approximately 25 health care partners in the state of Washington. Direct Relief has also contacted Washington State’s Public Health Department to offer assistance.

People suspected of carrying the virus are encouraged to wear an N95 mask to prevent airborne transmission, and health providers should also wear personal protective gear and an N95 mask if at risk, according to WHO guidelines.

The number of confirmed infections has tripled in the past week. The virus has spread to 13 provinces in China, and cases are confirmed in Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, and now in Washington state.

Modeling by WHO experts suggest there could be 4,000 cases, with uncertainty putting the margins between 1,000 and 9,700. The actual number of people that have contracted the virus is difficult to land on, as people with mild symptoms may not be detected at all, but are still highly contagious.

Concern is heightened as many in China prepare to travel for Lunar New Year celebrations across the country begins on Friday, Jan. 24. Travel around the country’s holiday is the biggest human migration on the planet, and international airports have been implementing special screening measures to detect passengers traveling from the impacted countries with fevers.

Direct Relief is coordinating with health officials at the state, national and international level to determine needs and is monitoring the situation as it unfolds.

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