As millions of Chinese travelled to their hometowns or abroad for the holidays to celebrate the Lunar New Year, little did they know about the deadly new coronavirus outbreak had started creating havoc in the city of Wuhan. Wuhan, known as a city of cherry blossoms is a popular commercial center located in Central China’s Hubei province. Once the economic lifeline of the country has now become the face of a deadly virus, preliminary named 2019-nCoV.
Home to about 11 million people, the death toll has crossed over 420 and 15,000 confirmed cases have been reported across the country. In an attempt to curb the situation, the local authorities have set up screening of arrivals from Wuhan.
What is Coronavirus?
It is a virus that is known to cause diseases in animals. This new virus has now infected humans reflecting with cold-like symptoms. It is believed that the actual source of the virus is from the busy and closely packed wet market in Wuhan, where both dead and living animals, including fish and birds are sold in wide varieties. Due to the unhygienic standards wherein, live animals are sold and slaughtered in the same place, such markets pose a serious risk of viruses being transferred easily from animals to humans.
Although, the animal source of the virus outbreak has not been known, many feel it has originated from bats. While this animal is not sold at the wet market, it may have infected other animals traded here.
History of past respiratory epidemics
Two of the severe coronaviruses known as Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) were believed to be more fatal, having killed more than 1,500 people in the outbreak of 2002. Following a new type of the same virus known as the Swine Flu, claimed as many 575,000 lives in 2009. However, the 1918 Spanish Influenza (H1N1) and the Asian Flu of 1957 causing millions of deaths remain the most devastating diseases of modern history.
Apart from China, the 2019-nCoV is spreading fast with confirmed cases reported in over 20 countries. The disease that causes symptoms of pneumonia, has forced the country to quarantine some of the major cities, causing the citizens to be outcasts in their own city, as they are being avoided by local hotels and major public areas.
As the death toll has increased, the foreign nations have enforced travel restrictions on China with airlines suspending their flights. Till further notice, all flights in and out of China have been postponed. In addition, the airlines globally have declared that itineraries for passengers travelling to or from the affected cities will be allowed to rebook or refund their tickets without any penalty, but with certain restrictions.
Just when the global economy had begun to recover from the recent trade wars, majority of the companies restricted travel to the affected region, factory closures and quarantines leading to vast economic disruption.
As doctors and health researchers rushed to control the outbreak and find a treatment, the virus continued to grow from one city to another. Within a month the disease activated a chain of events right from screenings at every entry point to lockdown of the affected cities.
How can the virus be controlled?
Just like a cold-causing virus transmits through infection from coughing and sneezing, coronaviruses are spreading in the same manner. As the virus is causing sickness to thousands across China, people are being monitored and asked to put a mask on, while placing others in quarantine for 14 days or longer if any symptoms of the infection is found. In a bid to get the virus under control, the government has taken extra efforts of building separate health care facilities for treating the patients.
Although there is still no vaccine or drug developed for coronavirus, a few essential habits have been advised by health officers to be implemented in our daily lives, such as washing hands with soap and warm water, avoiding close contact with infected people who are infected and drink plenty of fluids.
While WHO (World Health Organization) has declared an international emergency, the primary concern here is the spread of the virus in the economically poor but globally connected mega-cities of Asia and Africa. As the new virus remains to be unstated, WHO has announced guidelines for cases of detection, management and prevention of further infection during health care, as well as home care facilities for people assumed to be infected.
It is being estimated that if the virus spreads all over the world, the number of deaths could be extensive. In the current situation where the symptoms cannot be detected if the person is infected, is making it difficult to control the possible endemic. What if the disease continues to spread in the community? What if all the efforts to contain the virus fails? These are some of the worrisome questions that have no concrete answers. However, there is a hope that experiences from past outbreaks could help in developing a remedy soon.