UPDATE: Coronavirus in Germany – what you need to know

The hospital in Munich where the patients are in isolation wards. Photo: DPA
As of Friday, five people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Germany. Here's what you need to know.

We are updating this story on a regular basis.

What’s happening in Germany?

German authorities have confirmed that more than 10 patients have contracted the coronavirus sweeping through China.

At least five of the patients are employees at the car parts supplier Webasto, based in Starnberg, Upper Bavaria,

Last week the first of human-to-human transmission on European soil – a 33-year-old German man who fell ill after attending a training session hosted by a visiting Chinese colleague – was confirmed.

The ministry added that 40 other employees at Webasto in the Starnberg district had been identified as having been in “close contact” with the first patient, and they were to be screened and tested on Wednesday.

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The patients are in isolation wards.

Bavarian authorities have set up a coronavirus hotline which people can phone and ask any questions. The number is 09131-6808-5101.

A website has also been set up to provide information on the coronavirus.

What do we know so far?

Germany's first confirmed patient, the 33-year-old man, fell ill after attending a training session hosted by a visiting Chinese colleague on January 21st.

The Chinese woman “started to feel sick on the flight home on January 23”, said Andreas Zapf, head of the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety.

The case was confirmed by the health ministry in Bavaria late on Monday and is the first human-to-human transmission on European soil.

The ministry said the man comes from the Starnberg region, around 30km south west of Munich.

The virus, which can cause a pneumonia-like acute respiratory infection, has in a matter of weeks killed more than 100 people and infected some 2,740 in China, while cases have been identified in more than a dozen other countries.

He remains in hospital in an isolation ward, but is said to be “doing well”.

In response to the three new cases, Webasto announced late on Tuesday that the Stockdorf site would be closed until Sunday.

There have been several suspected cases of coronavirus in Germany but only four have been confirmed so far.

What are officials saying?

Bavarian Health Minister Melanie Huml said Bavaria is “well prepared” for dealing with the cases.

Meanwhile Munich virologist, Professor Ulrike Protzer from the Helmholtz Centre at the TU Munich, said there was no need for people to panic. 

She said the danger of contracting the coronavirus in Germany is very low.

Protzer pointed out that many more people in Germany – about 32,000 – are currently suffering from flu.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn tweeted on Tuesday to say that it was “expected” that the virus would reach Germany, and the case in Bavaria showed Germany was “well prepared”.

In another tweet Spahn added that the risk of virus spreading throughout the population in Germany remained low, according to health experts.

Germany has recommended its citizens avoid “unnecessary” trips to China as the virus spreads.

The country is also considering the possible evacuation of its nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.

What is coronavirus?

It's a respiratory illness and actually of the same family as the common cold.

The previously unknown virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

READ ALSO: 'We have to expect cases': Germany ramps up preparations for coronavirus

The outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan – which is an international transport hub – began at a fish market in late December and since then more than 100 people have died, including a doctor who was treating the victims.

What are the symptoms?

The initial symptoms are not dissimilar to the common flu – as the virus belongs to the same family – which is unfortunately probably going to lead to a certain amount of panic as flu in January are not exactly unusual.

Graph prepared for The Local by Statista

The symptoms include cough, headache, fatigue, fever, aching and difficulty breathing.

It is primarily spread through airborne contact or contact with contaminated objects.

Its incubation period is two to 14 days, with an average of seven days.

How can I protect myself?

As anyone who has ever tried to avoid getting the flu in winter will know, this is not always easy.

Health authorities recommend practising good hygiene, so washing your hands and using sanitiser gel regularly (particularly if you have been touching surfaces that many other people will have touched such as on the underground), using disposable tissues and throwing them away and covering your mouth with your elbow when you cough.

Chinese health authorities say that the majority of the people who have died were either elderly or had underlying health problems.

What should I do if I think I have it?

If you think you have the illness do not go to hospital or visit your doctors. German health authorities are worried about potentially infected people turning up at hospitals and passing on the virus.

Instead call an ambulance (the general emergency number in Germany is 112)  and tell the operator it is a suspected case of coronavirus.

Vocabulary

(das) Fieber – fever

(die) Kopfschmerzen – headache

(die) Schmerzen – aches

(der) Husten – cough

(die) Atembeschwerden – breathing difficulties

(eine) Erkältung – a cold

(die) Grippe – the flu

(das) Coronavirus – coronavirus

(der) Rettungsdienst – ambulance service 


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