What Is Known About The New Virus Emerging in China
What Is Known About The New Virus Emerging in China The new virus, which has emerged in Wuhan, China, is causing serious lung diseases and has already spread to two different countries.
The death toll from the virus, which was first seen in December, also rose to 3.
Chinese authorities announced they had identified more than 200 people who got caught the virus.
Health experts speaking to the BBC say the data released by the Chinese government does not reflect the true dimensions of the outbreak and that the virus may have infected at least 1,700 people.
This new emerging virus, which leads to symptoms of pneumonia, has alarmed health experts around the world.
Is this a temporary outbreak that soon disappears, or is it the first signs of a much more dangerous disease?
What Is This Virus?
After testing samples from patients in laboratories, Chinese authorities and the World Health Organization concluded that the infection was the coronavirus.
Coronaviruses are a larger type of virus family, but only 6 of them (there will be 7, with the new virus’s effects proven) are capable of infecting humans.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), caused by a Coronavirus, led to the deaths of 774 of the 8098 people affected by the outbreak in China in 2002.
“The memories of SARS are still fresh, that’s one of the reasons the fear is so big, but we are now much more prepared to fight this type of disease,” says Doctor Josie Golding.
Is The Virus Threat Serious?
Coronaviruses can cause death-related symptoms from a moderate cold.
This new virus is somewhere in the middle of both.
Professor Mark Woolhouse, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “When we find a new coronavirus, we’d like to see what the findings are. This virus leads to more common cold-like symptoms, which is worrisome but not as serious as SARS,” he says.
What’s The Source Of The Virus?
New viruses are emerging all the time.
It’s usually from one species, which, when found in this species, cannot be detected, they pass on to humans.
“If we think about past outbreaks, if this is a new coronavirus, it must have originated from an animal shelter,” says Professor Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham.
Since it emerged in 2012, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has led to the deaths of 858 out of 2,494 patients, has infected people from desert camels.
Which Animal is it from?
Once the animal shelter is identified as the source of the virus, it will be much easier to deal with the problem.
The cases are linked to the South China seafood wholesale market in Wuhan.
Although some sea creatures may carry coronavirus, there are other animals on the market, such as chickens, bats, rabbits, snakes, and it seems much more likely that one of them is the source of the virus.
Professor Woolhouse says humans ‘ close contact with animals carrying the viruses, with the multiplicity and density of the population, is caused:
“No one was surprised that the next outbreak was in China or in this part of the world.”
How Easily Does The Epidemic Spread?
Chinese officials say there are no examples of the virus being transmitted from one person to another.
For now, the World Health Organization and Chinese officials have not concluded that people are infecting each other with the virus.
This causes concern when new viruses that affect the lungs emerge because symptoms such as coughing and runny nose often make it possible for a virus to spread.
If it was the human-to-human transmission, we could expect to see the virus in healthcare workers who have close contact with patients.
But some experts warn it may be premature to conclude that it is not the human-to-human transmission.
Professor Woolhouse said: “I’m more careful than skeptical. It’s too early to come to a firm conclusion. Most coronaviruses are actually contagious and that’s my primary concern,” he says.
How Fast Is It Spreading?
The outbreak was thought to be limited, but news of new cases has been coming in since December when it emerged.
The outbreak is intensifying in Wuhan but there have been two more cases in Thailand, one in Japan and one in South Korea. These individuals have recently traveled to these countries from Wuhan.
Experts say there may be other cases that go unnoticed.
More than 1700 people may have been infected, according to a report by the London-based MRC Global Centre for Infectious Diseases.
The concern is being moved that it could spread among the hundreds of millions of people who will travel for the Chinese New Year, which begins at the end of this month.
Singapore and Hong Kong are screening passengers traveling by air from Wuhan, and U.S. officials have announced they will take similar measures at three major airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York starting Friday.
How Did The Chinese Authorities Take Precautions?
People infected with the virus are being kept in quarantine just in case to minimize the risk of spreading.
To detect the disease, scanning devices were put in place to measure the body temperature of the passengers.
The South China seafood wholesale market was also temporarily closed for spraying.
The United States and several Asian countries have taken measures to get health screening of passengers traveling from Wuhan, and the World Health Organization has warned hospitals around the world against a larger outbreak.
How Worried Are The Experts?
“Right now, until we know more, it’s hard to say how much we should be worried about,” says Dr. Golding.
“Until we know its source, it will cause us unrest.”
“Any virus that infects humans for the first time should cause concern to us because that means the virus has overcome the first barrier,” says Professor Ball:
“When it infects a human cell and begins to multiply, it can mutate, which will become more easily widespread and more dangerous.”
“You don’t want to give the virus that opportunity.”