In late December of 2020, it has been reported that a coronavirus outbreak appeared in Wuhan, a major city in central China.
Hold on, what is a coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses, first discovered in the 1960s, that cause diseases in mammals and birds. They can cause respiratory infections in humans. The effects are typically mild, like a common cold. In fact, a large percentage of all common colds among humans are caused by coronaviruses. But if one is infected by rarer forms of the virus, like SARS or MERS, the effect could be lethal. Some past cases of various coronavirus outbreaks include the 2001-2003 SARS syndrome that originated in southern China and the 2012-2013 MERS syndrome that originated in Saudi Arabia.
The virus in Wuhan has never been seen before. It was given the name 2019-nCoV. It was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31 and has been under investigation since. The new virus is very clever and is skilled at avoiding the immune systems, which makes it very dangerous. Another thing that is concerning is that it might not always be detected by medical detection methods, so infected people could walk free and infect more people without knowing.
What is its source?
This virus’s origin is from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. The market sells fish and other meat, including snakes and bats. The virus was at first thought to be from the snakes, but recent evidence says that bats are the most likely origin
How does it spread?
The way that this virus spreads is through animal-to-human or human-to-human transmission. It spreads very easily. Some signs suggest that the virus can spread before symptoms appear. Up to 14 days could pass before a patient realizes they are sick. However, that is not yet proved.
What are the symptoms?
Here is a list of the usual symptoms:
- Fever, elevated body temperature.
- Dry cough.
- Fatigue or muscle pain.
- Breathing difficulties.
There are some other, less common symptoms, including headaches, diarrhea, and coughing up mucus or blood. Pneumonia is likely to occur in serious cases.
What are the social effects?
There are almost 60,000 confirmed cases and at least 900 deaths in China, but there are concerns that these numbers might not be accurate. Some of the most affected cities are Wuhan, Hubei, and Beijing. More than 20 other countries have declared confirmed cases inside them. There are 14 confirmed cases in the US: 8 in California, 2 in Illinois, and 1 each in Washington state, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Arizona.
In Wuhan, things are serious. The city is closed down to prevent the virus from further spreading. No one could enter or exit the city. At least 17 countries have already, or are at least planning to, evacuate their citizens from Wuhan. Space and medical supplies are running out. Authorities are rushing to build more hospitals, and they are trying to acquire more supplies.
Not only the infected are feeling the effects of the virus. Many companies with markets in China are feeling the strain on the economy. Starbucks,
McDonalds, and many other popular shops are shutting down in various places in China. Planes to China are being strictly regulated, which is causing stocks in various airlines to drop.
Many Chinese New Year celebrations were canceled. School and work were canceled in a lot of areas. Citizens in big cities are not allowed to go out without masks, and one member of a family is only allowed to go to the market to buy stuff every two days or so. Some places have forbidden citizens to go out at all, and all food was brought to them by the government.
These actions cause extreme inconvenience as there is an alarming shortage of medical masks, and many families have little to no income due to not being able to go to work. There is also emotional stress, which has been pressing really hard on everyone lately.
Is there a cure?
Unfortunately, no effective treatment or vaccines have been developed yet. A group of scientists is working on a vaccine, but it will probably be a long time until its release (a year or more).
Since no cure seems to be in sight right now, authorities are hoping to do what they had done with the SARS incident more than a decade ago, which was to control the spread of the virus through, as Prof. Raina MacIntyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales, put it, “enhanced surveillance, case isolation, contact tracking, PPE (personal protective equipment), and infection control measures.”
What can you do to stay away from the coronavirus?
The answer is simple: keep yourself healthy! We are in the US, so the virus shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Especially in Virginia, where there are no confirmed cases yet. But still, do all the things you would do to keep away from the flu. Wash your hands frequently, drink water, eat healthy food, sleep well, exercise well, and try to avoid close contact with people who seem to be sick.
The situation really is very critical. This is only a summary of this syndrome. If you would like to know more, please see the resources below.