China fell victim to a mysterious respiratory virus that took the lives of at least three people and sickened more than 200 people. Recently, Chinese officials confirmed this virus to be contagious, which is likely to spread epidemically during the Lunar New Year Holiday.
Formerly, authorities claimed that the new strain of coronavirus was traced and passed from animals to humans. To overcome this spread of the virus, Chinese health officials sealed the seafood market in Wuhan, which was primarily believed to be the originating point.
However, at least two people were reported to have been infected by this virus. Interestingly, according to food business news, these people were not Wuhan locals.
Appointed by China's National Health Commission, Zhong Nanshan explained that these people, living hundreds of miles away from Wuhan, got infected because their family members carried and transmitted this virus from Wuhan to Guangdong province.
Zhong further investigated this outbreak and confirmed the human-to-human transfer of pneumonia-like virus, emphasising how medical staff had also been infected.
He concluded: "The current cases show there is definitely human-to-human transmission."
Zhong is accredited for discovering Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus (SARS) back in 2003, and he believes that this recent virus is not as strong as SARS. However, he emphasised on the epidemic outbreak of this recent virus and said that the "death rate at the moment is not so representative."
On 20th January 2020, Chinese authorities confirmed that 218 cases were reported over the weekend and the virus was no longer in Wuhan. The victim cities include Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen, which are situated hundreds of miles from Wuhan.
Other than China, cases were also reported from Thailand, Japan, and South Korea. At the moment, the global total of this virus accounts for 222 cases, which is very likely to increase in the near future.
Major Outbreak Expected During Lunar New Year Holiday
Health experts fear the expansion of this virus during the Lunar New Year holiday as local people will travel throughout the country and overseas during this time. On Sunday, the World Health Organization (WHO) regarded the widespread of this virus as "limited human-to-human transmission," which can spread regionally.
All other cases reported outside China have also been linked to Wuhan.
In South Korea, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detected a 35-year-old Chinese woman through temperature screening at Seoul's Incheon International Airport from Wuhan on Sunday. She is a Wuhan resident who travelled to South Korea for holidays with five other people.
According to the CDC, she developed fever and muscle pains and was prescribed cold medicine by a Wuhan doctor. She is said to be in a stable condition by CDC officials.
A respiratory expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Professor David Hui Shu-cheong said: "I believe Chinese tourists will bring the virus to many other countries in Asia in the coming days, due to their overseas travels during the Lunar New Year holiday.”
With three cases reported one after another, experts believe that the numbers of infections are being underestimated. Neil Ferguson, a disease outbreak scientist from Imperial College London, said: "The detection of three cases outside China is worrying. We calculate, based on flight and population data, that there is only a 1 in 574 chance that a person infected in Wuhan would travel overseas before they sought medical care. This implies there might have been over 1,700 cases in Wuhan so far.”
Worldwide Measures for Preventing Virus Outbreak
On 17th January 2020, US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced three airports in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to screen passengers arriving from Wuhan for the virus. Asian governments have also sought similar measures.
Wuhan has installed infrared thermometers at train stations, airports, passenger piers, and coach terminals to detect the temperature of departing passengers as a precautionary measure. However, these measures were only implemented after the five weeks of the virus epidemic and, now, many passengers are leaving China without any screening.