A newly identified Coronavirus that emerged in the city of Wuhan in central China is now known to be transmissible between people. There have been a number of deaths reported and hundreds of infections around the country and the number of confirmed cases outside China are growing. The first reported case of this new virus was on December 31st, 2019 and since then more cases were reported elsewhere in Asia along with the US. According to the latest reports the death toll has reached almost 25 and over 800 cases have been confirmed lately. But what is a Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is one group of viruses. There are a number of Coronaviruses that affect humans there also a lot of other Coronaviruses that infect other species of animals. There are many Coronaviruses found in animals but only about six are known to affect humans. It is likely that this originated in some non-human animals and jump from a nonhuman animal into a human. The symptoms vary; some can be mild like the common cold or much more severe like SARS or MERS.
The strain discovered in Wuhan has been found to cause severe lung disease. The first reported human infections were among people who visited the seafood and meat wholesale market in the city. It has since been closed by health officials. Only a block away from one of Wuhan’s major train stations, the market reportedly sold a range of animal meat including peacocks, koalas, Chinese giant salamanders, masked palm civet, and bamboo rats.
Li Bin, China National Health Commission said in a press that “the evidence shows that the disease is currently transmitted through the respiratory tract. And there is the possibility of a viral mutation.” He also said they’re still trying to figure out the exact source and how it is adapting but they have confirmed human-to-human transmission.
In an attempt to minimize the risk of contagion during the current travel rush, a number of Airlines and railway companies have announced they’ll wave cancellation fees for trips to and from Wuhan. The city’s mayor has also warned against travel to the epicenter of the outbreak and urged the people who are already there to stay. WHO – World Health Organization is meeting in Geneva to decide whether to declare a global public health emergency
The location, as well as the timing of the outbreak, is causing great concern. Wuhan is a major transport hub in central China and the spike in cases started just ahead of a massive travel rush for the Lunar New Year. It is known as the biggest annual migration of people on the planet. The infection has already turned up in Hong Kong which was hit hard by an earlier Coronavirus originating on the Chinese mainland. The deadly Coronavirus known as a severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS paralyzed the city in late 2002 and early 2003.
Doctors are reminding patients to avoid crowds as well as contact with animals if possible. After touching surfaces in public areas, good personal hygiene should include washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or at least a hand sanitizer. Facemasks may help but as demand rises, some pharmacies are limiting purchases to a single box. Authorities have already earmarked two sites to serve as quarantine centers. Some health experts have suggested that the mortality and infection rate for this Coronavirus is for now less worrying than it was during similar outbreaks in the past. But as the number of cases around the world continues to rise, governments and health professionals are preparing for the worst.