Authorities suspend religious gatherings in Qom, Iran, as cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reported in other cities.

Severity: Informational Alert

This alert began 22 Feb 2020 23:24 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 Apr 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: Novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • Location(s): Multiple cities (map)
  • Period: February 2020
  • Cases: 28

Summary
Authorities have suspended large religious gatherings in Qom Province after new cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were detected in several other Iranian cities as of Feb. 22. Officials have also announced plans to shut down schools, universities, and seminaries in Qom Feb. 23-24 in an effort to prevent the spread of the illness. Health Ministry officials have reported 28 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in cities across the country, Tehran, Babol, Arak, Isfahan, and Rasht, although most cases have been residents of Qom or persons with recent travel to that city. Six people have died after contracting the disease.

Officials initially reported two confirmed imported cases of COVID-19 in the city of Qom, Feb. 19. Saudi Arabia and Iraq have banned travel to and from Iran. Further travel restrictions are likely if authorities detect additional new cases.

Background and Analysis
COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions.

Older individuals, infants, and those with chronic illness are more susceptible to infection and are at increased risk for severe complications. Human-to-human transmission can occur, though it remains unclear how easily the virus spreads between people. Preliminary investigations indicate the course of illness is not as severe as seasonal influenza, nor as contagious.


Advice
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
WHO advice for international travel

WHO coronavirus knowledge base

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