WHO gets set to take on the mystery virus from China, stop it from going global
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said it was preparing, just in case the mystery virus from China results in a wider outbreak. This came after the detection of the first case of the disease outside of China: a woman travelling from Wuhan city to Bangkok was quarantined at the Hong Kong airport as she was suspected of carrying the infection.
To be sure, WHO's move should not be seen as alarming at this time, but as a preventive step to stop the spread of this viral infection around the world.
Health officials had previously said that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. However, the WHO modified the claim and said that human-to-human transmission of this virus was possible.
The virus, which is a form of coronavirus, has not been encountered before so there isn't any treatment for it yet. Coronavirus is the species responsible for the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003 that killed 774 people in China.
Coronavirus: what it does and how it spreads
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted from animals to humans. In this case, a fish market in Wuhan has been identified as the source - the market was shut down on 1 January 2020. Once coronavirus infects a person, it can mutate and spread from person to person as well.
Coronavirus can cause respiratory symptoms, fever, and coughs. In more severe cases, the infection can progress to pneumonia, kidney failure and even death. So far, at least 41 cases have been detected, with seven patients considered to be in critical condition. There has been one death: a 61-year-old man, who was a regular at the fish market, contracted the infection and died last week. Health officials reported that this man had previously been diagnosed with abdominal tumours and suffered from chronic liver disease.
Given the history of the SARS epidemic, in which information on deaths and new cases wasn't available early on and hundreds lost their lives, global health authorities are taking cautionary steps. Singapore’s Changi airport said it would measure the temperature of inbound travellers and authorities in Hong Kong have amped up efforts to disinfected trains and aircraft.
Additionally, various health outfits have praised Chinese efforts to monitor and report cases thus far. Since the last outbreak, surveillance systems have been made more robust and the infection so far has been competently contained.
Travel to China
The WHO has said that so far there is no reason to avoid travel plans to China. The risk of transmission to travellers is low: if you are travelling to Wuhan, the recommendation is to ensure that you maintain high standards of personal hygiene. Wash your hands before eating and maintain a distance from those who have symptoms of a cold. Coronavirus spreads like the common cold, so these basic rules have an impact.
For more on this topic, please read our article on Viral Infections: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment.
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Updated Date: Jan 15, 2020 13:21:53 IST
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