The two cases come after the UK last night increased the risk level of a coronavirus outbreak from low to moderate. Public Health England (PHE) also updated it guidance for primary care yesterday to say that if the virus is seen in the UK it is most likely to occur in people who have recently returned from anywhere in mainland China. It had previously suggested it was most likely in travellers returning from the Wuhan area only.
This morning, England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty confirmed that two patients in England, who are members of the same family, had tested positive for novel coronavirus and were receiving specialist medical care.
Professor Whitty said: 'We are using tried and tested infection control procedures to prevent further spread of the virus. The NHS is extremely well-prepared and used to managing infections and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had, to prevent further spread.
'We have been preparing for UK cases of novel coronavirus and we have robust infection control measures in place to respond immediately. We are continuing to work closely with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure we are ready for all eventualities.'
Guidance for GPs
According to PHE's guidance for primary care, fever, cough or chest tightness, and dyspnoea are the main symptoms reported by affected patients. The guidance says the coronavirus may cause mild to moderate illness as well as pneumonia or severe acute respiratory infection.
Practices have been given advice about isolating patients and seeking specialist support, as well as information on cleaning should a patient suspected of having the virus attend the surgery.
Earlier this week experts warned that public concern about coronavirus was likely to drive up demand for GP appointments across the UK. The authors of an editorial in BJGP Open said it was 'reasonable to expect' that widespread media coverage of the coronavirus outbreak 'will impact on the demand for appointments in GP practices in coming weeks'.
The authors - including two leading UK GPs - also predicted rising anxiety among the UK general public, and warned that primary care professionals must be 'involved in planning and action for health emergency risk management'.
Meanwhile, the DHSC yesterday revealed that the government had partnered with Twitter to ensure its users were getting accurate information about the virus. When Twitter users search for #Coronavirus on the platform they will automatically be directed to the DHSC's Twitter profile and the gov.uk website.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: 'Public safety is our top priority and as this is a rapidly evolving situation, it’s absolutely crucial everyone is able to access reliable, accurate information on coronavirus.
'I welcome that Twitter is taking action to direct users to official government health advice, helping to tackle misinformation and ensure the public is well informed. This action is hugely important, and I want to see more social media companies follow their lead.'