Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Global Epidemic – 28 January 2020

28 January 2020

Outbreak Update: Over 4,473 total novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) confirmed cases1 and 107 related deaths have been reported worldwide. Most cases (4,409; 99%) and all deaths have been reported from mainland China. Seventeen different regions and countries outside of mainland China have reported 64 cases: Hong Kong (8), Thailand (8), Macau (6), Australia (5), Singapore (5), Taiwan (5), the United States (5), Japan (4), Malaysia (4), South Korea (4), France (3), Vietnam (2), Cambodia (1), Canada (1), Germany (1), Nepal (1), and Sri Lanka (1). All cases diagnosed outside of China reported recent travel to Wuhan.

Background: On 10 January 2020, Chinese health officials reported 41 cases of pneumonia due to a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), including seven patients with severe illness and one death. Symptoms have included fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. The earliest diagnosis date for a case identified in China is 08 December 2019. Preliminary analysis of viral genomes from China and other countries suggests that initial transmission from a zoonotic reservoir to humans could have occurred as early as late October. The first cases reported had links to a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China, suggesting infection of humans from an animal source. Health authorities in China have limited transportation in and out of heavily affected cities and are continuing to monitor close contacts, including health care workers, for illness. Several territories in Asia and countries across the globe are screening incoming travelers from Wuhan.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. There are several known human coronaviruses that usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold. However, at least twice previously, coronaviruses have emerged to infect people and cause severe disease: severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The cases in this outbreak tested negative for both SARS and MERS. Clinical characteristics of infection, such as incubation period, have not yet been determined. Based on the incubation period of SARS and MERS, signs of 2019-nCoV could appear from 2-14 days after exposure. Human to human transmission has been documented, and healthcare workers have been infected. Like other coronaviruses, it is likely that people may be infectious before showing any symptoms of the disease.

Africa CDC Response:

  1. Africa CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center for the 2019-nCoV outbreak on 27 January 2020.
  2. Africa CDC is obtaining test kits for and working with laboratories in Member States to identify facilities that are able to receive and test specimens for novel coronavirus infection.
  3. Africa CDC is holding weekly updates with national public health institutes in Member States.
  4. Africa CDC will be working with Member States to support infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities and with the airline sector to support screening of travelers.
  5. Africa CDC will continue to provide updated and relevant information to Member States as the outbreak evolves.

Recommendations for Member States:

  1. All Member States should enhance their surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI)2 and to carefully review any unusual patterns of SARI or pneumonia cases. Examples of enhanced surveillance include:
    1. Adding questions about travel and testing for coronaviruses to existing influenza surveillance systems;
    2. Notifying healthcare facilities to immediately inform local public health officials about persons who meet the case definition for SARI and recently traveled to Wuhan (or other affected countries).
  2. Member States that receive direct or connecting flights from China should screen incoming passengers for severe respiratory illness and a history of recent travel to Wuhan and/or mainland China. Member States should be prepared to expand questions about recent travel to additional countries as the outbreak evolves.
  3. Notify WHO and Africa CDC immediately if suspected or confirmed cases of infection with novel coronavirus are identified. Africa CDC can be notified by emailing
  4. Prepare to collect specimens from patients suspected of having novel coronavirus infection. Interim guidance on specimen collection and handling is available from WHO at
  5. Provide guidance to the general public about seeking immediate medical care and informing healthcare providers about recent travel in anyone who develops symptoms of severe respiratory illness and recently traveled to Wuhan or one of the affected areas.

Resources for more information:


  1. WHO surveillance case definitions for human infection with novel coronavirus (ncov):
  2. WHO SARI case definition: anyone with an acute respiratory infection with history of fever (or measured fever of ≥ 38 C°) and cough with symptom onset within the last 10 days that requires hospitalization.