Wednesday, February 21, 2024
 
 

World prepares as deadly coronavirus likely to spread

B/W ONLY EPA PHOTO EPA / CDC
CDC Handout picture dated April 2003 shows a Coronavirus under a microscope. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under a microscope. US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) scientists were able to isolate a virus from the tissues of two patients who had SARS and then used several laboratory methods to characterize the agent. Examination by electron microscopy revealed that the virus had the distinctive shape and appearance of coronaviruses.

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China’s death toll from the new coronavirus rose to 132, including the first death in the country’s capital, Beijing. The deadly flu-like virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, with roughly 11 million citizens. It has been quarantined since 23 January and travel in or out is of the area is canceled.
China now has 5,974 cases of the new virus, more infections than it did in with SARS, though the death toll is still lower. During the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, 5,327 cases of the virus were recorded in China.
According to China’s National Health Commission, 976 people are in serious condition. The youngest patient is a 9-month-old girl in Beijing.
China has extended its Lunar New Year holidays to gain time to fight the epidemic. Except for the travel restrictions, schools, postal services and most government offices are also closed. The government said they will remain closed for at least next week. The virus rattled global stocks markets as it caused uncertainity, especially for travel-oriented companies.
The European Union said it will fly citizens home aboard two French planes later this week. The airlifts will be co-funded by the EU under its civil protection mechanism.
France became the first European country to confirm cases on 24 January, with four people infected so far. Officials said an elderly Chinese tourist in “serious condition” was receiving emergency treatment in a hospital in Paris.
The EU Commission said “Initial numbers indicate that around 250 French citizens will be transported in the first aircraft and over 100 EU citizens from other countries will join the second aircraft”, adding that “only healthy or asymptomatic citizens will be authorised to travel” on the flights. The Commission is also planning a meeting of health ministers to coordinate its reaction to the spread of the disease.
Germany has confirmed three new cases after it confirmed the first one in Bavaria. The German health ministry said all four patients are thought to be connected to the recent visit of a Chinese worker to the area. It added that the first patient is now in a “medically good state”, while the three new cases are being isolated for treatment.
British Airways has suspended all direct flights to and from China, after the UK government warned against all but essential travel to the country. The airline said it will continue its two daily flights from Hong Kong, which is not covered by the government travel warning.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam announced the suspension of high-speed rail and ferry links with mainland China. Hong Kong said it had eight confirmed cases, while 100 patients were in quarantine.
Even though there are still no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Russia, its authorities said special measures have been put in place at hotels and tourist sites due to fears over the outbreak. Three Russian regions have closed their borders with China until 7 February, namely the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Khabarovsk and Amur regions. Russian tour operators have stopped selling package holidays to China.
South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, US, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, and Sri Lanka have all confirmed patients who have contracted the disease.
What is the coronavirus?
The virus, named as 2019-nCoV, belongs to a family known as coronaviridae. Under a microscope it looks like spiked rings with a halo, hence the name.
It causes cold and flu-like symptoms, such as cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia. It spreads in droplets from coughs and sneezes and has an incubation period of up to 14 days. In severe cases it can lead to organ failure.
There is currently no vaccine for the virus and antibiotics are of no use. If people are admitted to the hospital, they may get support for their lungs and other organs. The recovery depends on the strength of the patient’s immune system. It is known that the patients who have died have been already in a poor health condition.
The efforts to limit the spread of the virus are further complicated by the fact that it can be passed on by people who have not yet shown signs of infection.
The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a Wuhan market. China has since banned trade in wild animals and urged people to stop eating meat from them.
Scientists say the coronavirus is closely related to other diseases including SARS, which killed nearly 800 people during the outbreak, when the Chinese government was criticized for reacting slowly. However, this time the WHO said it was transparent and reacted on time.
The relieving fact is that most of the cases that spread between people were of those who had contact with patients, which suggests the new virus is not well adapted to infect people.

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