WHO updates surveillance recommendations on novel coronavirus

The World Health Organization revised its surveillance recommendations for the novel coronavirus on Sunday, advising clinicians to be wary of the virus even if patients with severe respiratory illness have another disease.

The WHO also provided specific surveillance advice to countries in which NCoV was detected, in addition to investigations and studies to conduct where cases are detected. NCoV infected at least 15 people worldwide, nine of which were fatal cases. Most of the cases involved residence in or travel to the Middle East, CIDRAP News reports.

The guidance said the third cluster of NCoV cases in the U.K. provided evidence of limited, non-sustained transmission between humans.

"A number of unanswered questions remain, including the virus reservoir, the means by which seemingly sporadic infections are being acquired, the mode of transmission between infected persons, the clinical spectrum of infection, and the incubation period," the WHO said, according to CIDRAP News.

The U.K. cluster included a patient who originally tested positive for influenza A and was not thought to be infected with NCoV until a positive test came back for the virus. The WHO now recommends testing anybody with severe respiratory infection, even if another cause was identified, particularly if the disease does not fully explain the patient's illness and the disease does not respond to appropriate treatment.

The agency strongly encouraged countries in which a case was detected to consider adding NCoV testing as part of routine sentinel respiratory disease surveillance.

"(The WHO) does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied," the guidance said, according to CIDRAP News.

The WHO recommended several investigative steps, such as investigation of potential exposures, complete data collection during history taking and contact tracing. The agency also detailed recommended epidimiologic studies, including serologic surveys in healthcare workers and retrospective testing of stored specimens from patients who presented with respiratory disease, CIDRAP News reports.