It began on the eve of New Year when a number of patients were quarantined for pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan, China. The World Health Organisation (WHO) then identified the sudden outbreak as a mysterious corona-virus, an extensive spectrum of viruses ranging from the common cold to the more deadly SARS.
Since then, the Wuhan virus (named after the city which it was first affected by) has spread to different regions across China to Beijing and Shanghai. What was initially thought to be a domestic infection has turned out to possess an international epidemic as rising cases are being reported in neighboring countries including Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
Till date, an alarming 218 cases have been recorded just in China. While medical officials are trying to identify the origin and severity of the virus, three deaths had taken place, driving the country into a state of an emerging outbreak emergency, first since 2003 when SARS lead to over 800 casualties.
As of January 20, WHO has confirmed that the risk of a global epidemic is oncoming as the Wuhan virus is affirmed to spread through human-to-human interaction, from an initial speculation of animal-to-human contact. Now that the Lunar New Year celebrations are bound to happen in the coming week, hundreds of thousands of citizens are expected to travel from one destination to another using mass public commute.
The restricted spaces in trains, buses and airplanes are feared to facilitate the transmission of the deadly virus as more people come into contact with one another for an extended duration of time. Inevitable as it is, WHO has sent an immediate call-to-action guidelines to hospitals and medical institutions worldwide on infection control of the virus.
“There is no specific treatment for the new virus, but anti-virals are being considered and could be “re-purposed”, said Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit.
Though the symptoms and causes of infection are still vague at this point, WHO is prepared to tackle the spread on a large scale given its possibility of high effectiveness for human-to-human transmission. If you’re experiencing cold shivers, cough or continuous sneezing, it’s best to get yourself checked.
If possible, avoid travelling out of country for the time being and take safety precautions as prescribed by your local hospitals. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.