Herts’ public health chief issues Coronavirus advice amid global fears

Jim McManus addressed concerns about the potential spread of Coronavirus in Hertfordshire. Picture:

Jim McManus addressed concerns about the potential spread of Coronavirus in Hertfordshire. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Hertfordshire’s director of public health has stepped-in to allay public fears about the potential spread of the coronavirus, insisting ‘there is no great cause for alarm’.

On Thursday (February 6) - following a meeting of the council's public health and prevention cabinet panel - Jim McManus agreed to address some of the concerns surrounding the virus, at the request of county councillors.

While he advocated residents take good hygiene measures - such as regular hand-washing - he said it was entirely possible there wouldn't be an outbreak in the UK.

He highlighted the relative death rates and infection rates of the virus, which were shown to be broadly similar to the flu, and said the virus' death rate has so far proven to not be significantly higher than the flu's.

Mr McManus also suggested that not all of those suffering from the latest strain of the coronavirus will have reported it - meaning the death rate could be even lower.

He said: "We don't know the number of cases where people have been unwell, but not gone to hospital.

"So there could be a number of people who thought they had cold, but actually had the coronavirus. Most people have mild to moderate symptoms."

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He suggested that those infected with the virus are typically passing it on to two or three people - which again is broadly similar to the more common flu virus.

Officially the risk to the UK posed by the virus is said to be "moderate". But Mr McManus stressed that this was a measure of the risk of getting cases in the UK and that the risk to UK residents remained low.

He also said the UK should be grateful to the Chinese authorities for the step they had taken to cause massive disruption to the spread of the virus.

Finally, McManus added that he was confident the county was well prepared if there were confirmed cases of coronavirus.

He said: "I think the risk here is low - but it would be foolish not to take all the steps we need to take."

"I am confident we are well-prepared if it does occur. But we need to emphasise what we have been saying about hygiene."

There are now around 28,000 coronavirus cases that have been reported in China - with a further 265 around the world, including three in the UK.

As a precaution, dozens of UK residents are currently in 'containment' following their return from Wuhan, in China - where the first cases were diagnosed.