UPDATED: Norwegian health officials announced Wednesday evening that the country has registered its first patient infected with the Corona virus. On Thursday officials announced several more suspected cases and quarantines of those involved.
“The person (officials wouldn’t initially specify whether it’s a man or a woman) was tested after coming home from an infected area of China,” read a press release from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The “person” was said to be “healthy,” however, and apparently not showing symptoms of the virus.
Infection risk low
“It’s improbable that the person has infected others,” said Line Vold of the public health institute. Officials in Tromsø later said “the person” was a woman but they don’t think she poses a threat to others, either.
The virus was discovered after a routine testing upon her arrival back in Tromsø over the weekend. Efforts were being made Thursday to contact all other passengers who were on her flights from China via Oslo. She was said to be at home in her own apartment in Tromsø, in good humour and in daily contact with local public health officials specializing in contagious diseases.
Officials later announced that other Norwegians in at least nine counties had been tested for the virus and were ordered to stay home in makeshift quarantine until test results could confirm whether they were infected. State broadcaster NRK reported that they include around 50 people in Oslo who’ve been tested during the past two days.
Norwegian student hospitalized in Italy
Another Norwegian studying in Italy was confirmed on Wednesday to also be infected with the virus and hospitalized in Florence, while news broke Wednesday afternoon that a Corona case was registered in Gothenburg in Sweden, around a four-hour drive south of Oslo.
Norwegian health care officials have been busy preparing to deal with an outbreak of Corona cases as the disease spread in southern Europe. Health care agencies claim to be ready to handle cases, while also worrying that isolation wards may soon reach capacity.
The state health directorate (Helsedirektoratet) said Thursday that they’re preparing for a situation in which 25 percent of all Norwegians can be infected. Suspected cases are emerging nationwide, from Troms og Finnmark in the north to Agder in the south. Three teachers in Horten were asked to stay home after returning from a trip to Italy. Other quarantines have been imposed in Elverum, Larvik, Sauda, Stavanger, and Mo i Rana.
Spreading in Europe
As of Wednesday evening, a total of around 80,200 cases of Corona infection have been reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), resulting in around 2,700 deaths worldwide. Most have occurred in China, where the virus first emerged but was initially suppressed by local authorities in Wuhan who even accused whistle-blowers of “spreading rumours.” The doctor who tipped authorities was punished instead of being praised, and later died from the virus himself.
Chinese autorities eventually realized they faced an epidemic that could spread internationally, and have worked to keep the virus from spreading. It did, however, with several other Asia countries struggling to contain it and Italy hit the hardest in Europe. Cases have also been reported in Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Greece and Spain’s Canary Islands.
Dr Margaret Harris of the WHO told NRK on Wednesday that anyone falling ill with symptoms including fever and coughing should not immediately go to a hospital or doctor but rather inform health authorities and go into a personal quarantine. “Take it easy,” she advised, “and don’t let others come close. Washing hands is important, and cover your mouth and nose when you cough.”