Coronavirus – A Cause for Alarm?

The outbreak of the Coronavirus, was first identified in China on the 31st December 2019. Chinese health authorities confirm that almost two thousand people have already been infected with the coronavirus with more cases expected in the coming days. At least fifty-six people have died because of this virus. International media hubs confirmed that the virus has already spread to seven other countries including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and the U.S. 

It is believed that the outbreak of the coronavirus started in the central city of Wuhen China, in a seafood market. The market is known to sell life, wild and farmed animals, including marmots, birds, rabbits, bats and snakes. The cause of the virus is yet to be determined, however health experts suspect that the virus may have been transmitted from snakes and bats. 

Studies conducted by the Beijing Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the Wuhan coronavirus might have been transmitted from bats to snakes with bats being the primary host, and finally passed on to humans. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals. Coronaviruses cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).  

The signs of the coronavirus infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 

Chinese health authorities are still unaware of the severity of this virus and the mortality rates that may come with it. Many health experts believe that the present coronavirus may not be as deadly as other types of coronaviruses such as the SARS that hit China between 2002 and 2003. During the outbreak of the SARS virus, this killed nearly eight hundred people across twenty-nine countries and infected more than eight thousand individuals.

Chinese health authorities are currently undertaking preventive measures to control the epidemic spread of the virus. China has in fact quarantined Wuhan and nearby cities to stop the virus’ spread. In Wuhan, all public transport has been suspended and all flights and trains cancelled. Authorities have also instructed the cancellation of major public events which were scheduled to take place in the country in the coming days, including the traditional temple fairs in Beijing, the international carnival and the annual football tournament in Hong Kong and all public related Lunar New Year celebrations in Macau. 

Health scientists are working tirelessly to develop a vaccine to control the outbreak of the virus. The WHO has not declared the virus as an international emergency so far, partly because of the low number of overseas cases which have been reported. Nonetheless, the Director-General of the WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed that this may indeed become one, if the spread continues to grow at such a fast rate.

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