Progress in Wuhan virus actions, but fear is still stoking governments and travelers
As I prepare to post this article about the Wuhan virus, now officially named COVID-19, the number of cases is approaching 72,000 and the death toll 1,800. The mortality rate has increased to 2.5 percent, but that is not a settled statistic.
Around the world, national governments and businesses seem to have too often acted irrationally due to fear. They seem to be showing a measure of progress now, but have a long way to go.
After the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrived in Yokohama, Japanese health officials began testing passengers and crew for COVID-19. They put the ship in official quarantine when they found ten passengers were infected, confining more than 2,600 passengers to their cabins. The crew wasn’t confined so they could provide meals and other services to the passengers.
Publisher note: Due to the changing nature of this threat check the Centers for Disease Control Site for the latest information.
Questions are arising about the effectiveness of on-board ship quarantine for COVID-19
As additional COVID-19 cases quickly grew on the ship, some health experts questioned the ship’s quarantine concerning its ventilation system and crew members potentially transmitting the virus.
In land-based quarantine facilities, ventilation systems are filtered and designed to control the airflow to reduce airborne infectious particles to make cross-infection of other people highly unlikely. Like most cruise ships, the Diamond Princess ventilation system includes air filtration similar to many hotels. It’s not designed to provide cabin air isolation.
The question of whether crew members were transmitting the virus as they served the cabins is a serious one. As on-board Diamond Princess COVID-19 infections went from 10, past 250, then to 356 confirmed cases, quarantine questions became more urgent. With almost ten percent of those on the ship infected in less than two weeks, it appears likely that while the passengers’ quarantine and isolation reduced the total number of infections to some degree, it was generally ineffective.
Japanese government allows Diamond Princess passengers to evacuate
The Japanese government is finally allowing the Diamond Princess’ evacuation of those not already infected. Governments are flying uninfected passengers home where they will likely face a two-week mandatory quarantine, like those flying to the U.S. Like others, I suspect that the number of infected people on the ship would have been dramatically slashed had a similar evacuation been conducted when the ship first docked.
The saga of the Holland American cruise ship, Westerdam, is just as troubling as the Diamond Princess’ tale. The ship departed Hong Kong on February 1 for a 14-day cruise. Despite having no known cases of COVID-19, it was refused docking by Guam, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. It was finally allowed to dock in Cambodia. Upon docking, an examination of passengers for COVID-19 showed no signs of infection, so the passengers were quickly released to go home.
Public health officials worrying if more Westerdam passengers are infected with COVID-19
Soon afterward, Malaysian officials confirmed that a passenger from the Westerdam was infected with COVID-19. That’s raised fears that other passengers, who were already dispersed and traveling to other countries, may have the disease, too, and are infecting others. Had the ship not been turned away, but evacuated to a land based quarantine facility, the potential spread of COVID-19 by passengers on the Westerdam likely wouldn’t have occurred.
Along with the serious public health problems of COVID-19, the general public is being subjected to Wuhan coronavirus fake advertising and malware.
Don’t fall prey to fake COVID-19 email advertisements and malware links and videos.
Email advertisements touting facemasks that can protect anyone from contracting COVID-19 have been sent out for several weeks. Doctors state that facemasks held on with the loops over ears aren’t helpful against any kind of virus, unlike respirators. The CDC states, “CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.” N95, FFP2 and FFP3 respirators may help, if they are properly sized and fit well when worn.
In addition to misleading advertisements, email messages designed to lure recipients into installing malware on their computers is being sent out to millions daily. Hackers are trying to leverage COVID-19 fear to push readers to fall for their schemes. They’re trying to get people to go to fake websites or play fake videos with the purpose of installing malware, often Emotet, on their computers. Some of the videos may look similar to the one in the image above. The hackers’ aim is to steal ID and financial information, including login credentials, to banks and other financial institutions.
Some of the links to websites in the emails sent to people in the U.S. have addresses similar to those used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but they’re actually fake and lead to dangerous locations on the Internet.
Governments must do better and travelers must take commonsense precautions, plus be on the alert for fake advertisements and malware
Governments need to allow public health officials to do their job to protect the general public, treat victims like human beings and allow them to receive proper treatment. Governments need to avoid untested quarantine procedures such as that utilized on the Diamond Princess. They must learn to treat cruise passengers, like those on the Westerdam, as potential victims, not outcasts or terrorists, and never take shortcuts with the public’s health, as they did by not putting the passengers and crew in quarantine in a well designed land facility.
It’s also up to all of us to be mindful of our physical health by taking commonsense precautions like those I’ve laid out in my prior articles about Wuhan, and be alert for misleading advertisements and malware on the Internet.