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We raise our preparedness level in order to prevent infections with novel coronavirus in Denmark due to new European recommendations

As the epidemic evolves in China, we are also gaining more knowledge of the disease. The evidence suggests that the novel coronavirus is not as lethal as SARS and MERS. The quick spread of the epidemic causes for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) to adjust their recommendations. The Danish Health Authority and Statens Serum Institut increase their preparedness level in order to prevent infections with novel coronavirus in Denmark.

07 FEB 2020

Danish version 04 FEB 2020 - English version 07 FEB 2020

”The evidence suggests that the novel coronavirus behaves differently than what we initially were afraid of. Many of the cases in Europe have displayed less severe symptoms. They have been isolated due to the risk of infection, but did not need hospitalization because of their symptoms”, says Executive Vice President of Statens Serum Institut Kåre Mølbak.

Statens Serum Institut will continue to monitor the outbreak of novel coronavirus closely and keep themselves updated on the newest information on the virus and the disease. Novel coronavirus is still rapidly spreading in China.

“The central point of our strategy to prevent dissemination of infections is that we are quick to detect and isolate infected individuals and track down other persons that they may have been in contact with when they were contagious”, says Søren Brostrøm, General Director of The Danish Health Authority. He continues: “In the next few days we will issue updated guidelines in order to ensure that all parties in the health system and the emergency management know what they should pay attention to”.

The updated guidelines from The Danish Health Authority will specifically address the criteria for suspect cases of the novel coronavirus and the guidelines for handling patients and contacts in order for the guidelines to correspond to the newest available knowledge of the disease, risk of infection etc. The Danish Health Authority will also, in collaboration with experts in the field, hospitals, emergency management and other authorities, assess whether the current strategies and capacity for handling outbreaks, quarantine facilities etc. are sufficient or whether it needs upscaling.

“We also increase out information efforts even further, so that employees and travelers in airports, authorities, institutions and of course citizens have even better access to knowledge on what they themselves can do”, finishes Søren Brostrøm. He also emphasizes that misinformation and misunderstandings can cause for unnecessary chaos and panic, and that The Danish Health Authorities therefor will continue the constructive dialogue with media and experts on balanced communication on the subject.

Development of the outbreak

Of the 427 registered deaths among individuals infected with novel coronavirus only one case has occurred outside of China.

As the outbreak evolves we will gradually gain more knowledge of the disease and the evidence suggests that individuals infected with novel coronavirus – in contrast to e.g. SARS – often only develop mild symptoms and that the mortality is lower than for SARS, probably only a few percent and primarily occurs among the elderly and chronically ill.

The outbreak is still concentrated around the city of Wuhan in the province of Hubei. The international health authorities find that spread of the virus may occur in all of China although the extent is not known. The outbreak is rapidly evolving in China and the number of registered cases is expected to rise, especially in China, due to, among other things, easier access to diagnostic testing.

Nevertheless, also in China there may be individuals infected with novel coronavirus who never come into contact with the health system and thus are not tested. This means that the actual number of cases may be higher than the reported numbers.

Most cases of infected individuals reported from countries other than China are people who have traveled to the country and have a connection to Wuhan. Nevertheless, cases due to interpersonal transmission have been reported, for example from Southern Germany.

Risk assessment

Because of the rapid spread of the outbreak in China, in spite of the fact that all traffic from China has been markedly reduced, it is expected that more imported cases will occur in countries outside of China. As a consequence, ECDC has adjusted their risk assessment for travel related cases in Europe so that it is now considered “moderate to high”.

Based on this, it is the assessment of Statens Serum Institut and The Danish Health Authoritiy that the probability of a travel related case occurring in Denmark is now moderate. Similar to our neighboring countries, we may see one or more cases in the near future.

It is still the assessment of Statens Serum Institut and The Danish Health Authoritiy that the probability of person-to-person transmission occurring within Denmark is small. This is due to the fact that Denmark has a well-functioning emergency management system and health care system, that will act quickly in case of suspected cases of infection with the novel coronavirus, both in terms of testing the individual and in terms of tracking down possible contacts. 

Additional information

The Danish Health Authorities: Questions and answers on novel coronavirus

Information from ECDC temaside on novel coronavirus