An outbreak of a new coronavirus in China has killed nine people and sickened more than 400, and has spread to several other countries. The first case outside of Asia was announced on Tuesday, as federal health officials confirmed that a Washington State man who had recently travelled to China had been hospitalised.
Considering that China is a destination point for lots of business persons across the globe including Nigeria, it therefore becomes imperative to write this.
The mysterious coronavirus is capable of spreading from person to person, a prominent Chinese scientist said on Monday, adding to fears of a broader epidemic.
The disclosure increased pressure on the Chinese government to contain a growing public health crisis, just as China enters its busiest travel season of the year. On Tuesday, the authorities confirmed a fourth death from the illness in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The authorities had previously said the deadly virus seemed capable of spreading only from animals to humans in most cases, tracing the outbreak to a market in Wuhan.
But in recent days at least two people have become infected with the pneumonia like virus even though they live hundreds of miles from Wuhan, experts said on Monday, suggesting that the illness is spreading from person to person.
“Now we can say it is certain that it is a human-to-human transmission phenomenon,” Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a scientist who is leading a government-appointed expert panel on the outbreak, said in an interview on state-run television on Monday.
The World Health Organisation, WHO announced Monday that it was convening an emergency meeting on Wednesday “to ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be made to manage it.”
Millions of Chinese are travelling this week for the Lunar New Year holiday, adding to fears that the virus could spread swiftly and on a broader scale. Experts said the severity of the outbreak would now depend on how many people, on average, a person with virus could infect.
“There are now sufficient cases that it’s not going to die out by chance,” said Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College London who has studied the new virus. “The real question now is, how efficiently can this virus spread from person to person?”
What is a coronavirus?
The virus emerged in the city of Wuhan.
The government of Wuhan first confirmed on Dec. 31 that hospitals in the city were treating dozens of patients for pneumonia with an unknown cause.
Many of the cases were connected to the Huanan Seafood Market, which also sold live poultry and exotic animal meats. Considered a likely source of the virus, the market was closed and disinfected.
The health commission in Wuhan said on Sunday that the illness had also appeared in people who had not been exposed to the market, raising the possibility that the virus could be present elsewhere in the city.
Animals appear to be the most likely source.
The W.H.O. says animals appear to be the most likely primary source of the outbreak, though it is still not known which animals are responsible.
Past outbreaks of similar illnesses, like SARS, were believed to have emerged from markets where people and live animals were in regular contact
Coronaviruses are named for the spikes that protrude from their membranes, which resemble the sun’s corona. They can infect both animals and people, and cause illnesses of the respiratory tract, ranging from the common cold to severe conditions like SARS, which sickened thousands of people around the world — and killed nearly 800 — during a 2003 outbreak.
How do I know if I’m infected with the new coronavirus?
Symptoms of infection include a high fever, difficulty breathing and lung lesions. Milder cases may resemble the flu or a bad cold, making detection very difficult. The incubation period — the time from exposure to the onset of symptoms — is believed to be about two weeks.
According to the World Health Organisation, common signs of infection include fever, cough, and respiratory difficulties like shortness of breath. Serious cases can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure and even death
Little is known about who is most at risk. Some of the nine patients who have died also suffered other illnesses.
How was this virus identified?
On Jan. 8, The New York Times reported that Chinese researchers had identified a new coronavirus as the pathogen behind a mysterious illness that had sickened 59 people in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China.
The cases were linked to workers at a market that sold live fish, animals and birds. The market was later shut down and disinfected.
The number of human infections has grown dramatically, to more than 400 in China, and cases have now been confirmed in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and South Korea. The nine people who have died from the illness were in Hubei, the Chinese province of which Wuhan is the capital, and many of the others infected had lived in Wuhan or travelled there.
On Tuesday, health officials announced the first case outside of Asia. They said the infected man, a resident of Snohomish County, Wash., had recently travelled in the Wuhan region.
A day earlier, a top Chinese scientist said that the coronavirus was capable of spreading from person to person, adding to fears of a broader epidemic. The Chinese government warned that anyone who hides infections will be “forever nailed to history’s pillar of shame.”
Airports around the world, including some in the United States and Australia, are screening passengers from Wuhan. Nigeria’s Airport Authority recently issued a warning to travellers and has commenced screening of travellers.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control, CDC and Prevention announced expanded screening measures in the United States.
The World Health Organisation has called a meeting on Wednesday to decide whether to declare the coronavirus outbreak an international health emergency.
What can people do to protect themselves?
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said that travelers to China should “absolutely” avoid live animal markets, and keep their distance from any animals in rural areas. He reiterated that travelers should practice “good hand hygiene,” and try to avoid anyone coughing and sneezing.
Source: New York Times