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08
Feb

China’s Coronavirus Outbreak creates Global Health Emergency

The latest outbreak that has created panic all across the globe and has caused global emergency is Coronavirus. Till date, more than 20,000 cases have been reported in more than two dozen countries, vast majority of them in China, according to the World Health Organization. So far there have been at least 425 deaths in China, and one in the Philippines.

Wuhan, China – where the outbreak is believed to have started – is locked down, while most other countries are screening any passengers coming from China at the entrypoint. Many countries like India, Australia, EU, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, UK, Japan, Turkey etc have evacuated their citizens stranded in China’s Wuhan, amid the coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 400 people.There is now growing concern about the potential global spread of this new virus.

Some countries have closed their borders for foreign visitors returning from China and some are using screening and quarantine measures to avoid the spread of this virus. 

The WHO has warned that closing borders could accelerate the spread of the virus, with travellers entering countries unofficially.

The virus that has put the whole world in a panic state, let us understand what it is and how it can be prevented. 

What is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. When this virus attacks humans, it can cause respiratory infections like common cold, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), kidney failure and even death. 

How did the Coronavirus start?

It is said and believed to have originated from a Wuhan seafood market where wild animals, including marmots, birds, rabbits, bats and snakes, are traded illegally. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. So the first people infected with the disease are believed to be those involved in the seafood market.

Initial analysis of the virus suggested it was similar to coronavirus seen in snakes. However, after more detailed study, it now seems that the virus came from bats. A detailed paper released by a team of virologists at the Wuhan Institute for Virology suggests that the new coronaviruses’ genetic makeup is 96 per cent identical to that of a coronavirus found in bats. Some early cases of this virus, seem to have also infected people with no link to the Wuhan market at all, which means that the initial route of human infection may pre-date the market cases.

In order to prevent the virus from spreading, the Wuhan market was shut down for inspection and cleaning on January 1, but by then the infection had already spread beyond the market.

How to prevent Coronavirus from spreading?

The best way to prevent any infection from spreading is hygiene. Regular hand wash, especially with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap is highly recommended to kill the virus if it is on your hands. 

Avoid coming in close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness. If you are too close, you can breathe in the virus when they sneeze or cough. Apart from this, covering our own mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing are best ways to combat any kind of infection.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with your contaminated hands. You can easily transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.

It is important to consult a doctor if you have any symptoms of a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Do not hesitate in seeking medical advice if you have travelled to any part of China where 2019-nCoV has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone who has travelled from China and has respiratory illness symptoms.

Not all respiratory illness symptoms indicate the presence of coronavirus. However, during this global emergency, it is important that we take all measures to help the virus from spreading. If you have mild cold, cough, fever with no travel history to or within China, and no close contact with anyone with respiratory illness, practice simple hygiene methods and stay at home. 

Take special precautions when handling livestock or visiting animal product markets. Strictly avoid any contact with sick animals or any other animals in the market e.g., stray cats and dogs, rodents, birds, bats. Avoid contact with potentially contaminated animal waste or fluids on the soil or structures of shops and market facilities.

If you are a non-vegetarian, avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. It is important that you properly cook raw meat, eggs or animal organs before consumption. Use different knives and chopping boards for raw meat and cooked food. 

During this time of panic and global medical emergency, the internet is flooded with myths and false stories. Do not believe everything you read, fact check is important before you pass on any information over social media platforms and messaging apps. 

Always remember- Prevention is better than Cure!

References: 

https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/china-coronavirus

Pic credit: www.niemanlab.org

By Manali Arora

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