MSF update on novel coronavirus outbreak

White flag with red logo of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) against sunny blue sky

© Valérie Batselaere/MSF

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) epidemiologists and infectious disease experts are following the fast-evolving development of the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 7,800 confirmed cases, more than 98 percent of which are in mainland China.

We have offered support to health authorities in mainland China and Hong Kong who are leading the respective response efforts—similar to what we did in 2003 during the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was caused by a related type of coronavirus. These previous activities included training of health care staff on methods to prevent and control infections and health education.  

An MSF team is being dispatched to Hong Kong with an initial focus on health education for vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and other at-risk people.  

Because the 2019-nCoV virus is new, much remains to be understood about it. However, as with other coronaviruses, droplet infection seems to be the main mode of transmission, so infection control measures such as handwashing and cough etiquette (covering coughs with disposable tissues or clothing) remain very important for prevention.