If you’ve turned on the news recently, I’m sure you would’ve seen the word ‘Coronavirus’ flash across your screen. Watching the news of the outbreak can at times induce fear as more and more people are being diagnosed outside the country of origin. In the post I want to explore the virus and it’s possible implications in the near future. Reading numerous articles on the web I sense a lot of fear mongering at times. I’m not stating that this couldn’t potentially spread to a pandemic scale, merely just presenting some facts and reports, in an effort to understand them a bit more.
What is the Corona Virus?
On December 31st, 2019, the World Health Organisation was notified of rising pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei Province. At the time it was an unknown virus, which was then classified as a new virus belonging to the family of coronviruses (such as the common cold, SARS and MERS). The virus was named 2019-nCoV (Novel Coronavirus).
Initial cases of the disease showed that the patients had come in contact with seafood and animals at a market, suggesting the virus was transmitted from animals to humans. However, there were also cases in which patients hadn’t visited such areas, indicating person-to person transmission.
Presently, the means of transmission between person-to-person is unclear. Because 2019-nCoV has similarities have been drawn to SARS and MERS, it is thought that the virus is transmitted through sneezing and coughing.
Why Is This Virus A Concern?
In China, the Coronavirus is considered an outbreak, meaning a sudden increase in occurrences at a particular time and place. What makes this virus a concern is how fast it was able to spread between December 31st and now.
2019-nCoV demonstrates a 70% genetic similarity to SARS Coronavirus (SARS-nCoV). This also raises concerns because of the previous SARS-nCoV outbreak in China in 2003, in which 3000 people were infected and 774 killed before its disappearance.
These are the main reasons that the virus is being heavily monitored. WHO conducted a meeting of an emergency committee to determine if it is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Ultimately, it was determined the virus was not of concern, it is still considered urgent however. At the moment it doesn’t appear that those outside of infected countries have to be concerned as most cases are presented in China. This of course is a status that is constantly being checked and updated to ensure proper interventions can take place.
Currently, Chinese health authorities have taken measure in surveillance, epidemiological investigation, closure of the market place the virus is thought to originate from and even quarantine. Measures are in place to aid in the prevention of the disease spreading, though a lot of it also comes down to the individual.
We have all seen virus movies and there’s always someone who doesn’t report their symptoms and infects one person, which then cascades into a lot of people getting the virus. This may be an exaggeration as movie viruses are highly contagious, though I do believe education helps prevent these types of scenarios. In order to prevent the spread of disease the public needs to be made aware of the risks and a means of self-protection. China is also working on increasing public communication to improve awareness. There are however, conflicting reports which state lack of information to the general public.
Those were the facts reported in various journal articles. Yet, there is still a lot of anger being reported from Chinese citizens especially in regards to the quarantine. This anger is due to fear aid, resources, supplies will be reduced, which is completely understandable. Wuhan is a city of almost 12 million people and lack of aid can ultimately result in its citizens feeling doomed to succumb to the disease. Pairing these concerns with the memories of the previous SARS-nCoV outbreak, the public is getting fearful. The reality of the situation is that only time can tell if this large-scale quarantine will work. Quarantine is very much a necessity at times, though it’s how you handle it that demonstrates it’s effectiveness.
With diseases it is very much a waiting game to see if interventions work. At the moment there is no cause for concern to the population outside of China and WHO is repeatedly holding committee meetings go ensure if it does become an international concern, early intervention will occur.
Thanks for reading everyone! I know this was different to my usual posts. I was seeing a lot of news on the subject and myself was starting to get anxiety. As a scientist I wanted to step back and think critically about the outbreak and do some reading on measures in place.
While doing this research, I really feel for all those suffering from the disease or in the quarantine zone. Just watching it in the News a lot of people are getting anxious, so living within the actual zones would be absolutely terrifying. Please keep these people in your thoughts and/or prayers.
I detest referencing in any style, so I’m just going to provide the links for my information sources.