Expert Advisory: Brock expert says coronavirus could be next SARS

MEDIA RELEASE: 24 January 2020 – R0016

As reported cases of the Novel coronavirus in China and other east-Asian nations fuel global fears, a Brock University expert says specific factors could influence further transmission.

With the number of reported cases exceeding 600, including at least 18 deaths, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Eduardo Fernandez, a global health expert, says the current outbreak must be carefully analyzed.

“The 2019 Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has the potential to become a pandemic just like SARS in 2003,” he says. “Any disease with the potential to extend to several regions of the world must be monitored closely, especially if it’s causing mortality like this one.”

While the current outbreak of the Novel coronavirus is believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, with no confirmed cases currently in Canada, Fernandez says there are several factors which make it dangerous.

“It’s a respiratory infection with a virus apparently new to humans, which has shown capacity  for person-to-person transmission through direct contact with respiratory secretions,” he says. “This mode of transmission requires both social distancing as well as intensified hand hygiene. The fact that it is occurring in an area with a very intense trade exchange is of concern, since exchange of people and products can amplify the possibility of more cases in the Pacific Rim.”

Though measures have been taken to quarantine the city of Wuhan, Fernandez says upcoming celebrations could prove to be problematic.

“The celebrations of the new Chinese year could represent an additional risk of population movement in areas with active transmission,” he says. “The first cases of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan were timely reported to the World Health Organization in late December 2019, so we are in the first weeks of transmission expansion.

“If we take SARS as an example, we can expect more cases in the upcoming months. Taking precautions at the individual level would help decrease the risk of infection.”

Eduardo Fernandez, a global health expert and Assistant Professor of Public Health, is available for interviews.

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

* Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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