20 February 2020

Update coronavirus: governments of countries surrounding China are also taking measures

There has been an outbreak of a new coronavirus in the city of Wuhan in China. Most patients suffer from pneumonia. The Chinese authorities are currently investigating the coronavirus and the source of the infections. The most up-to-date information about the new coronavirus can be found at the site of National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, our partner universities in several Chinese cities are currently closed for education and research. UU is in contact with as many students and staff as possible who are already in China.

I am an (exchange) student and will soon be going to China for my study/research, what should I pay attention to?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reinforced the travel advice for the whole of China on Thursday 30 January. Utrecht University takes the situation in China very seriously. Following this advice, UU strongly advises students and staff not to travel to China.

Travellers FROM China

If you recently returned from a stay in China, and suddenly develop cough, sore throat or shortness of breath, within 14 days since your return:

  1. Stay home and call your general practitioner for advice and medical care don’t forget to mention that and where you were in China.
  2. Have you been in contact during this period with staff members or students of the UU contact the university via coronavirus@uu.nl. Don’t forget to mention that and where you were in China.
  3. Your general pratitioner will provide, together with the RIVM and GGD, the medical care and research on the coronavirus when needed..

Travellers TO China

  1. Avoid contact with sick people, in particular those with a cough.
  2. Avoid visiting markets and places where live or dead animals are handled.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water OR use an alcohol based disinfectant solution before eating, after using the toilet and after any contact with animals.
  4. Avoid contact with animals, their excretions or droppings.

The Chinese Government - as well as the governments of surrounding countries such as Japan, Singapore and Taiwan -  is taking very strict measures to prevent further spreading of the coronavirus. As a result, public life throughout China has come to a standstill; schools, public facilities and many other organisations have been closed until further notice.

Please take into account possible additional measures by the Chinese authorities as well as the governments of surrounding countries such as Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, including measures with more far-reaching travel restrictions and territorial entry and exit restrictions. Please also see the websites and reports of, among others, the government: 

and internationally:

Background information

The 2019-nCoV identified in China is a new strain of coronaviruses not previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses belong to a large family of viruses that can cause diseases in humans or animals. Very rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect humans and spread from human-to-human. Human coronaviruses are usually associated with mild diseases or mild colds. Until now there have been two specific coronaviruses that have passed from animals to humans and caused serious diseases in humans: MERS and SARS. 

Outbreaks of new viral infections in humans are always a concern for public health. Especially when there is little knowledge about the characteristics of the virus, how it spreads to humans, how serious the resulting infections are and how to treat them (source: ECDC).

With what is now known, the disease does not appear to be very contagious, but human-to-human transmission is increasingly registered. Not many relatives of patients in China have become ill. Therefore, it seems that the disease is not easily transmitted from human-to-human. The WHO and the Chinese government are currently charting the situation. More will become clear about the contagiousness in the coming period. 

Patients with a confirmed 2019-nCoV infection reportedly have mild to severe respiratory disease with symptoms of:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lung problems (less frequent complication)

You don't have to go directly to the doctor unless you have serious lung problems. Have you recently been to China and the region around Wuhan? Then report this to your doctor.

How the new coronavirus is transmitted is not yet completely clear. With what is now known, the disease doesn't seem very contagious. Not many relatives of patients in China have become ill. Therefore, it seems that the disease is not easily transmitted from person to person. The WHO and the Chinese government are currently charting the situation. More will become clear about the contagiousness in the coming period. 

Other coronaviruses (SARS and MERS) are transmitted by air with droplets of saliva that are released by coughing or sneezing. 

These droplets, which move through the air, can infect a person directly through breathing. These droplets are transmitted through the air and can land on all kind of objects. A person can become infected if he or she touches an object containing viruses and then touches the eyes, nose or mouth.  

The virus can also be transmitted through hands. When you shield your mouth with your hands during coughing or sneezing, the viruses are transferred onto your hands. They can then be left on objects by touching them. 

The most important measures people can take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus are very simple. These measures apply to all viruses that can prevent flu and colds so it is always important to follow them.

Those measures are:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Cough and sneeze in a paper handkerchief or the inside of your elbow
  • Use paper handkerchiefs instead of a reusable handkerchief 

The incubation period is the period between ingestion of 2019-nCoV and the first symptoms of the disease. It is currently thought that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may occur within two to fourteen days after exposure. This is based on what was previously seen as the incubation period of MERS-viruses.

You are already contagious to others during the incubation period, as well as in the period during which you have symptoms of the disease.