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Switzerland: Two quarantined Zurich patients test negative for coronavirus

Two patients who were admitted to hospital in Zurich with symptoms of the deadly coronavirus have tested negative.

Switzerland: Two quarantined Zurich patients test negative for coronavirus
Illustration photo: AFP PHOTO / ROME AIRPORT AUTHORITY / AEROPORTO DI ROMA
The two patients were hospitalised and quarantined after showing symptoms of infection after recently returning from China.
 
The results of tests returned on Tuesday morning show that the patients do not have the disease, said a statement from the Triemli hospital in Zurich.
 
There is no risk for the other patients or the employees of the hospital, officials said.
 
France announced on Friday that there were three confirmed cases of Coronavirus, two in Paris and one in Bordeaux.
 
They were the first in Europe. All three patients had recently been to China.
 
 
Patrick Mathys, head of the crisis management section at the Federal Office of Public Healthexternal link, told the Sonntagsblick newspaper that the epidemic could spread to Switzerland, a popular destination for Asian tourists.
 
“We are also in contact with tour operators who organise group tours from Asia to Switzerland,” Mathys said adding that Switzerland was well prepared for the worst-case scenario but that it zero-risk was impossible.
 
“We have well-equipped large hospitals that could take coronavirus cases,” he said.
 
Switzerland like many European countries was expected to see its tourist industry hit by China's move to impose travel restrictions to halt the spread of the virus.
 
Tourism officials in Switzerland predict a fall of up to 50 percent in the number of visitors from China in the coming weeks.
 
In China, the number of fatalities from the viral pneumonia epidemic jumped to 81 on Monday with some 2,744 cases confirmed in the country.
 
The World Health Organization on Monday said the global risk from the deadly virus in China was “high”, admitting an error in its previous reports that said it was “moderate”.
 
The UN health body said in a situation report published late Sunday that the risk was “very high in China, high at the regional level and high at the global level.”
 
In a footnote, the WHO said there had been an “error” in previous communications published on Thursday, Friday and Saturday which “incorrectly” said the global risk was “moderate”.
 
Asked for more detail, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said only that it was “an error in the wording”.
 
The WHO on Thursday stopped short of declaring the virus an international public health emergency — a rare designation used only for the most severe outbreaks that could trigger more concerted international action.

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: What is monkeypox and what is Switzerland doing about it?

Switzerland has reported its first monkeypox patient on Saturday, but with over 80 cases across the world to date, Swiss officials are preparing to handle the eventual increase in the number of infections.

EXPLAINED: What is monkeypox and what is Switzerland doing about it?

The first case so far was detected in Bern in a person who was “exposed to the virus abroad”, according to the statement by cantonal officials, who did not specify in which country the patient could have been infected.

The traveller is receiving outpatient treatment and self-isolating. Close contacts have been informed through contact tracing.

READ MORE: Switzerland confirms first monkeypox case

While Swiss health officials currently assess the risk of contracting monkeypox as low outside rural areas of Central and West Africa, “the epidemiological data is still limited”, said Céline Gardiol, head of the vaccination section at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

“However, it can be assumed that more infections can also occur here, as is the case in other countries”, she added.

What measures are Swiss health authorities taking?

For the time being, “the epidemiological situation is being monitored in cooperation with international health authorities and experts, according to FOPH’s vice-president Linda Nartey.

FOPH is also recommending that the cantons carry out contact tracing in proven cases and isolate those who test positive — all of which has an eerie sense of déjà-vu.

“The cantonal systems are in place and ready to be deployed. Quarantines are not currently planned”.

There is no specific vaccine against monkeypox, tough first- and second-generation smallpox vaccines provided effective protection. But they were discontinued in 1972 when the World Health Organisation declared that the disease was successfully eradicated.

There is now also a third-generation smallpox vaccine that is approved for adults in Europe but not yet in Switzerland, as the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic, has not received any approval request from the manufacturers.

However, Narty said Switzerland is examining the possibility of buying these vaccines.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox, Affenpocken in German, vaiolo delle scimmie in Italian and variole du singe in French is a zoonotic virus (a virus spread from animals to humans) that most often occurs in areas of tropical rainforest in Central and West Africa.

However, it is occasionally found in other regions, and cases have recently been discovered in Europe, North America, and Australia.

The name monkeypox originates from the initial discovery of the virus in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958, according to WHO. The first human case was identified in a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970.

Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. The incubation period of monkeypox is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.

People can also be infected through contact with the lesions of the skin, blood, tissues, or excretions of infected animals (mainly rodents) and by handling the meat of sick animals.

The disease is not known to be sexually transmitted. Still, close contact between people during sex can make the transmission of the virus easier.

How contagious and dangerous is monkeypox ?

According to FOPH, immunocompromised people, as well as children and young adults who have become infected seem to have a higher risk of a severe course of the disease, whose symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and chickenpox-like skin rash.

Most people affected by the disease recover within a few weeks.

It takes a close, direct contact with the infected person, for instance by touching skin lesions, to become contaminated. Infectious disease specialist Jan Fehr confirmed that monkeypox virus is not transmitted through air, like coronavirus.

Many of the cases presented are in men who have sexual relations with other men and health authorities have asked for extra care and are studying current cases.

And this brings is to the question that is likely on everyone’s mind right now.

Is monkeypox as contagious as Covid and will there be another pandemic?

“Based on what is known about the virus, one can assume that it is less transmissible than the coronavirus”, Nartey pointed out.

She added that at the moment there is no indication of another pandemic emerging in Switzerland or elsewhere.

However, the evolution of the disease must be closely observed, she said.

“We have to watch the outbreaks and in each case carry out contact tracing immediately to quickly interrupt any transmission chains”.

Tracing became widespread during the Covid pandemic to identify, and quarantine, people who were in contact with an infected person.

READ MORE: Q&A: How will Switzerland’s coronavirus tracing app work?

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