FINAL UPDATE (2/12/2020): The coronavirus has officially been called COVID-19. Per reports, it has killed more than 1,100 people and sickened about 45,500.
UPDATE (2/4/2020): Per CNBC, former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, “The coronavirus will likely grow into a pandemic”.
UPDATE (2/3/2020): Per CNN, the coronavirus outbreak has killed at least 362 people and infected more than 17,300 globally.
The Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), a new type of coronavirus, was first reported in China on December 31, 2019. To date, it has spread rapidly and infected well over a thousand people worldwide, with most of these infections being within China itself. As of this moment, the World Health Organization (WHO) hasn’t declared a global emergency, but the situation is being taken very seriously by the Chinese government.
Origin of the outbreak
Coronaviruses originate in animals and are not usually transmitted to humans. In very rare cases, they are capable of mutating and transferring to humans, and then it can spread from human to human. This is what happened with the infamous severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, and is happening again with this new coronavirus. The origin of the outbreak has been traced to a seafood market in the city of Wuhan and is believed to have come from interaction with live animals there. The market has now been shut down.
Fever and respiratory difficulties, including dry cough, are the main symptoms of the virus. Aches in the body and diarrhea have also been reported. Severe cases lead to kidney failure, and pneumonia and death are also possible.
As of the time of publication, 41 people have died as a result of the Wuhan coronavirus. One thousand three hundred twenty-one people have a confirmed diagnosis. The death toll is likely to rise.
The virus is continuing to spread throughout China so there is now a lockdown in place in at least fifteen different cities. The total population of all of these places is close to 60 million people. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, and all fifteen of the locked-down cities are within this province. Lockdown strictness varies by city, but all of them have shut down their public transport networks. In some cases, roads and airports have been closed too.
Travel restrictions are an excellent first step, as viruses can spread very quickly throughout the country and the world thanks to global transportation. The Chinese have now started fever-checking everyone passing through road tolls and other transport links, and they will quarantine anyone with a fever. Isolating infected individuals helped beat the SARS epidemic and is likely to be the winning strategy this time. It is also vitally important that health sector professionals are fully trained and equipped for infection control and able to carry out the highest levels of hygiene (e.g., hand washing) and safety practice, especially in relation to infected protective gear, which needs to be removed and disposed of very carefully.
We will continue to cover this quickly developing story with updates. Please bookmark this page.
Video credit: Guardian News | YouTube