Right now, there’s a serious virus going around – mainly in China. You may have heard of it: it’s called the Wuhan Coronavirus. Over the past month or so, it’s been on the rise, catching the attention of more and more people due to its rising numbers. However, what do you know about it? Is it really something to be worried about? We’ve looked into it and gathered some essential information on the matter so you don’t have to.
What Is It?
The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a highly contagious virus that can be transferred between people. It was first identified by authorities in Wuhan, Hubei, China. It has been reported that all patients have been isolated and getting treatment in medical institutions in the city. The main symptoms are much like the flu but become more like pneumonia with time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), these kinds of viruses are the type that can cause illnesses like the common cold and even severe diseases like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
As a result of this outbreak, plenty of travel warnings have been raised in multiple countries. In the U.S., the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) raised its travel warning to its highest alert level, telling U.S. citizens to avoid nonessential travel to China. The Canadian government is another that raised the same travel warning. On top of that, the travel warning also advised people who’ve been to China in the last 14 days who feel sick with fever, a cough, or have trouble breathing to get medical help immediately.
As of now, the total number of confirmed cases in China has jumped up to 4,515. This is after the number was 2,744 on January 26, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control. Globally, over 4,520 cases have been reported.
Symptoms have included fever, fatigue, a dry cough, shortness of breath, and even respiratory distress in some patients. Chest x-rays have shown signs in both lungs as well. In more severe cases, this virus can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
On January 23rd, a quarantine on travel both in and out of Wuhan was issued in order to try and stop the spread of the virus outside the city. All modes of transportation were suspended until further notice. Large gatherings and group tours were suspended as well. By January 24th, 14 more cities were placed under the same measures. Now, 17 cities are under quarantine. In total, these cities contain over 50 million people.
Affecting The Economy
As one would expect, this phenomenon has a serious effect on the economy. The impact is already being felt in China. A central committee has been set up by the Chinese government in order to manage the outbreak response efforts. Large declines have been reported in civil air travel, rail travel, and road travel as well. U.S.-based companies are also scaling back operations with China.
The death toll has been climbing rapidly, with the number being at 106 now. Not to mention, 1,771 new cases have been confirmed. The virus has spread to over 30 provinces in China according to national and local health commissions.
In order to prevent infection, the WHO recommends regular hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of the virus. Other things to do are stay home when sick, and clean and disinfect frequently touched items and surfaces.
The exact cause has yet to be identified. There are two estimated causes as of now: Bat eating in Wuhan, or a leak from a facility studying the virus. Recently. Chinese influencers have been seriously criticized online for eating bats. There are studies that suggest that the virus has spread when managing live bats in a poorly regulated live animal market.
The virus has now spread to other places outside of China. So far, cases have been reported in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, The Republic of Korea, United States, Vietnam, and Germany.
Chinese authorities are still working on finding the origin of the virus. They say it came from a seafood market in Wuhan where wildlife was traded illegally. The WHO also claims that an animal source is most likely. It’s been said by the Chinese CDC that tests have confirmed the virus jumped from animals to humans inside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
There are multiple organizations right now testing all kinds of antivirals and developing vaccines. In fact, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is working on three vaccine projects that are set to go into trial by June 2020.
Lots Of Unknowns
Since this virus is so new, there isn’t much known about it yet. It’s been said that it’s a combination of several different viruses that make a terrible combination. We just hope that we get more concrete answers soon – mainly an effective treatment!
Naturally, since this is all happening now, in the 21st century, social media has plenty to say on the matter. Chinese users have been posting images and videos that show infected people collapsing in public from the Coronavirus.
As there isn’t much known about the virus, national authorities have been constantly posting updates and new findings on the matter. WHO doesn’t recommend anything specific for travelers. Just in case of symptoms to get medical help. The CDC is closely monitoring the situation and working closely with the WHO to respond to the health threat. In addition, the WHO is in close contact with national authorities in China.
Treatment And Vaccines
There is no vaccine for the new virus, but it’s now in development. In China, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is working on a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. Aside from that, two other projects are being supported to develop a vaccine.
One specialty hospital named Huoshenshan Hospital has been under construction against the outbreak and to better quarantine the patients. On January 24th, Wuhan authorities have said they planned to have the hospital built within six days and have it ready to use on February 3rd.
The health minister of China has said that the coronavirus is increasing in virulence. Meaning that it could now be contagious even before the patients exhibit symptoms. This makes apparently healthy people possible carriers. Human-to-human transmission has been confirmed as well.
Shutting Down The Market
Since the economy is being so badly affected, the Chinese stock market is no different. In fact, Chinese authorities have decided to suspend trading on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges. The financial markets will remain shuttered until February 3rd.
There is a fear of the virus spreading through the hundreds of millions of Chinese travelers through the holidays. Even though many have canceled their plans, and airlines have canceled flights, there have been measures taken to prevent the disease from spreading. Airports all around the world have started screening passengers from China. In fact, the U.S. government has increased staff to conduct screenings at 20 airports.
The Wuhan outbreak and its association with a seafood and animal market has led to the conclusion of the virus having an animal source. While this has already been confirmed, it’s resulted in a fear that this illness would be similar to the previous SARS outbreak. Comparisons have shown some similarities between this virus and SARS-CoV.
As the virus spreads and makes its way through various countries, people all around the world are preparing themselves to avoid it. From wearing medical masks on a daily basis to washing their hands more than ever. To be fair, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
In Wuhan, the city streets have been deserted as a result of the quarantine. The prices of fresh groceries have gone up more and more, and the people inside have been wondering how long they’ll need to stay in their apartments. Now, 17 cities are under quarantine as well.
China has extended the Lunar New Year holiday as a result of the outbreak. The next semester for schools and universities across the country have all been postponed. The education ministry in China has yet to provide a daye for teaching to resume.
The Remaining Question
The one question that remains is how bad is it? Is this outbreak classified as a global health emergency? Will it become one? No one can really know for sure yet. It’s been said that the outbreak is a domestic health emergency in China, but not a global health emergency just yet. Since 2005, there have been five global health emergencies: swine flu in 2009; polio in 2014; Ebola in 2014; Zika in 2016 and Ebola again in 2019.