Sweden raises coronavirus risk alert as global cases increase

Sweden raises coronavirus risk alert as global cases increase
File photo of medical staff at an infectious disease clinic in Sweden. Photo: Mikael Fritzon/TT
Swedish health authorities have upgraded the risk of individuals testing positive for the coronavirus to "very high" – and the risk of the virus spreading in Sweden to "moderate".
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Sweden's Public Health Agency on Monday upgraded the risk of the virus spreading in Sweden from “low” to “moderate”, or three on a five-point scale. The risk for individuals testing positive in Sweden after catching the coronavirus abroad was upgraded to from “high” to “very high”, the highest level on the same scale.

The agency's director-general made the announcement at a press conference in the afternoon.

The assessment is partly based on the situation in northern Italy, where almost 1,700 people had been infected as of Sunday. Around 60 of those have fully recovered, but Italy's death toll currently stands at 34.

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The Public Health Agency has also urged Sweden's Transport Agency to suspend Iranian airline Iran Air's permit in Sweden, in order to halt all direct flights from Iran, where there's also a widespread outbreak.

“That is based on two factors. Partly the very unclear situation in Iran. Neither those who are coming from Iran nor we have any idea of what is happening in Iran. We also fear that the situation will get worse,” Swedish news agency TT quoted Public Health Agency director-general Johan Cason as saying.

At the time of the change, there were 14 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Sweden, with no one seriously ill, and health authorities have been working to track down everyone who may have been in contact with those people. The number of confirmed cases in Sweden rose further to 24 on March 3rd.

The vast majority of people who do contract it recover. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 80 percent of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment.

Sweden's first case of the coronavirus was reported in Jönköping at the end of January. At the start of February, authorities said the woman was “feeling well” and that they expected her to make a full recovery.

The people who have tested positive so far in Sweden are: nine people in Västra Götaland, three in Region Jönköping, two in Region Uppsala, nine in Region Stockholm, and one in Skåne.

Swedish health authorities are currently urging anyone who has been travelling in China, South Korea, Iran or northern Italy to stay at home if they develop symptoms, and call health services at 1177. 

But if you are healthy you are advised to keep living as normal, taking only the precautions you would during normal flu season, such as washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth if you sneeze.

Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness, so if you belong to a risk group you may want to be extra careful.

There have been more than 87,000 confirmed cases and almost 3,000 deaths worldwide since the virus first broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

The coronavirus is primarily spread through airborne contact or contact with contaminated objects, and the symptoms include a cough, headache, fatigue, fever, aching and difficulty breathing.

If you think you have the illness, do not go to hospital or your doctor's surgery. Swedish health authorities are worried about potentially infected people turning up at hospitals and passing on the virus. Instead, call Sweden's national health advice hotline 1177. Here's a general article about how the Swedish healthcare system works.

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