China’s Ominous Coronavirus Health Threat
Chinese political authorities state that lower-ranking officials who covered up the spread of the coronavirus would be “nailed on the pillar of shame for eternity.”
- The happy expectations for the week-long Chinese New Year holidays have been dampened by coronavirus that is spreading rapidly in China.
- The evident root cause of coronavirus is that people from Wuhan -- with a population of 11 million -- had been infected with a viral pneumonia since late 2019.
- The World Health Organization has recommended screening aggressively for coronavirus. However, so far it has not yet recommended any travel curtailing.
- No effort should be spared to control coronavirus. Good preventive measures can considerably minimize the number of deaths.
The happy expectations for the week-long Chinese New Year holidays have been dampened by a new viral infection that is spreading rapidly in China. Cases have been confirmed in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province, as well as in other countries.
The evident root cause is that, since late 2019, people from Wuhan, China’s seventh-largest city, with a population of 11 million, had been infected with a viral pneumonia whose cause was unknown.
Echoes of SARS
Now the virus has been identified as a new type of coronavirus. Two other types of coronaviruses are SARS and MERS.
The new virus is raising concern about the possibility of a new SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)-kind of epidemic, which killed thousands of people in 2002 and 2003.
As of now, people infected with this new virus have been found in China, Japan, Thailand and South Korea. On January 21, 2020, the first case was reported in the United States, in a man who was returning to the United States from a trip to Wuhan.
SARS emerged as a new corona virus in 2002, infecting people in southern China, then in the rest of the country and finally infecting more than 8,000 people in 37 countries and killing more than 750. Fortunately, no new cases of SARS have been reported since 2004.
MERS, the SARS cousin
Some coronaviruses, first identified in humans in the mid-1960s, cause the common cold. Other coronaviruses have been found in bats, camels and other animals and can cause severe illness leading to death.
The MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) virus is believed to originally have been transmitted to humans from dromedary camels. It seems to be passed less easily than SARS from human to human.
The MERS virus has greater lethality than SARS, killing 35% of those infected. It caused the death of more than 800 people, most of them from Saudi Arabia
Antibiotics do not have any effect
People infected with the coronavirus originally found in Wuhan suffer coughs, fever and severe breathing difficulties. Although some antiviral drugs may lessen the severity of the symptoms, antibiotics do not have any effect.
The recovery of those affected will depend on the strength of their immune system, which is already weakened in the very old and already sick.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended screening aggressively for the newly found virus.
Chinese President Xi Jinping urged public health officials to urgently take appropriate measures for controlling the spread of the infection, saying “party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put people’s lives first.
The Chinese political body responsible for law and order stated that lower-ranking officials who covered up the spread of the virus would be “nailed on the pillar of shame for eternity.”
Travel restrictions in the offing?
Hundreds of millions of Chinese have begun traveling for the Lunar New Year. Chinese officials expect three billion trips to be taken in the 40-day period surrounding this celebration. It is important to know of any travel restrictions. However, so far, the WHO has not yet recommended any travel curtailing.
Both Chinese health officials and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are closely monitoring the situation although the latter admitted that there is “much more to learn” about how the virus is transmitted.
“More cases may be identified in the coming days, including more in countries outside China, and possibly in the United States,” said the U.S. agency. “Given what has occurred previously with MERS and SARS, it’s likely that some limited person-to-person spread will continue to occur.”
In the meantime, China’s health commission has indicated that the government will respond with measures appropriate to manage outbreaks of the most virulent diseases, including mandatory reporting of cases.
This is particularly important to be able to follow the course of the disease and to concentrate efforts in the most critical areas.
Residents of Wuhan have canceled plans to go out to restaurants for the New Year celebrations and they are avoiding close places like movie theaters and shopping markets. The city is effectively shut off.
Other residents are leaving the city, saying that they will return when the outbreak is effectively contained. Many people are wearing masks while they join friends to chat or play cards.
Because there is no effective treatment or vaccine to protect against this disease, controlling it relies on a classic set of measures. They include:
• prompt identification
• management and isolation of possible cases
• personal protective measures
• limiting crowded places, and
• investigating close contacts of those infected to minimize potential transmission.
No effort should be spared to control this dangerous disease. Good preventive measures can considerably minimize the number of deaths.