On Friday, January 17 2020, India issued a travel and health advisory to China which has witnessed the rise of a new mysterious virus, having pneumonia like symptoms. With 200 reported cases, four deaths, and the virus having spread to neighbouring nations of Japan, South Korea and Thailand, many countries have started taking precautionary measures to control the spread of the same. The first cases of the virus emerged from Wuhan which has around 500 Indian medical students.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued the advisory and notified its preparedness in a tweet on January 17.
The Ministry has also released a press release stating the other measures that India is actively taking to curb the spread of the disease in India. Most of the leading airports have been asked to screen travellers and report any incidences of illnesses on India bound flights. The National Institute of Virology in Pune is equipped to deal with cases related to the new virus and the teams which were dealing with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus in 2014 are trained to deal with this outbreak.
Over the weekend, 139 new cases of the virus were registered in Wuhan while Daxing district in Beijing and Shenzhen in South China also witnessed cases of individuals who had travelled to Wuhan with symptioms of the virus.
This mysterious virus belongs to the Coronavirus family, six of which are commonly known to infect humans. This virus could well be the seventh virus. The source of the virus is still unknown and untraceable. The World Health Organization and the Chinese National Health Commission have stated that this virus is dangerous till its source is not identified but after that it is preventable and controllable.
A 45-year-old Indian teacher staying in Shenzhen was admitted to the hospital in an unconscious state with pneumonia like symptoms. She is the first person of foreign origin who contracted this virus, as reported by PTI. One case was reported from both Japan and South Korea while two cases were found to have symptoms of the virus in Thailand. Singapore and Hong Kong airports have now started screening travellers. The United States of America has issued for screenings at the three major airports of Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
What is this virus?
The virus is called 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The WHO has listed the following common signs observed in people infected by 2019-nCoV: Fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, death.
To contain the virus infection, health officials in China have isolated the infected patients who are being treated at various medical institutions in Wuhan.
The coronavirus normally affects the respiratory tract. Common cold as well as the severely acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) are other types of coronaviruses. These viruses can be traced to animal sources. SARS was transmitted from the chivet cat to humans.
The source of the current virus has not yet been identified. The WHO has stated that currently these cases do not prove any human to human transmission but these cannot be ruled out as the virus is very nascent in nature. If this virus was being transmitted within humans, there would have been cases of health workers providing services being affected. With two people who were not in close proximity of Wuhan or the market place being affected, the possibility of this virus spreading from humans to humans has raised.
Trajectory of this virus
The current virus is assumed to have emerged from the Hunan Seafood Wholesale marketplace in Wuhan. The first few cases were reported in December 2019.
The infected were all in close contact of the marketplace. The cases that have emerged in the other areas had travelled to Wuhan in this period. Wuhan is a major transport hub in China.
Scientists who are studying the virus in UK estimate that there is underreporting and estimate that around 1700 cases of the virus could be prevalent in China. They also believe that China is a hotbed for new viruses because of the size and density of its population along with the close proximity of the population with the animal diet.
The health officials have identified 763 people, including health care workers, who had close contacts with the infected patients. They were kept under observation for symptoms of 2019-nCoV and 644 of them have been discharged, while the rest are being treated.
Currently, the seafood market under contention is closed for disinfection. The Chinese have placed temperature scans at various places and at airports. Other preventions include cooking meat and eggs, avoiding unprotected animals, and not being in close proximity of people with a flu or a cold.
Updated On: 2020-01-21T11:54:18+05:30