What is the Coronavirus?
The 2019-nCoV virus – more commonly known to the public as simply ‘coronavirus’ or ‘Wuhan coronavirus’ – has dominated international news over the recent weeks, as fears have mounted over the potential lethality of the disease. Fortunately, such fears appear to be thus far unfounded, as the disease sits at around a 2.2% mortality rate, with the vast majority of those being elderly or having pre-existing conditions, including weakened respiratory systems, in whom the symptoms of the virus progress at a significantly increased rate.
Though known more commonly to non-medical personnel as coronavirus, the moniker is actually the name of the group to which the virus belongs. While a formal name is soon to be announced, it currently goes by the designation 2019-nCoV. It is an infectious virus believed to have been transferred to humans via bats sold in an illegal wet market. The exact mechanism and route of transmission remains elusive. As a comparison, direct contact with intermediary host animals, consumption of milk, uncooked meat, or urine, were thought to be the main routes of transmission for both SARS and MERS.
Though the idea of a previously unknown virus is of concern to the public, 2019-nCoV appears to carry little more threat to most of the population than influenza. The World Health Organization has stated that it is not classing the spread of the new coronavirus strain as a pandemic.
Common Symptoms of Wuhan Coronavirus (Novel coronavirus (2019-nCov))
Chinese health officials have stated that common symptoms of 2019-nCov include a high fever, sore throat and cough that may progress to severe pneumonia, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Wuhan Coronavirus Map – 7 February 2020
Treatment & Prevention
There is currently no known treatment for 2019-nCov. However, two companies have stepped forward – one in China and one in the US – claiming they have medications that can assist in the treatment process. Validity of these claims is currently under assessment. It should be noted that on the date of the announcement, the Chinese firm sold their entire stock prior to the end of day.
The NMPA on 30 January awarded a China medical device registration certificate to a series of new testing kits created by Chinese firm Sansure Biotech, capable of detecting a positive result in 30 minutes. As of 2 February, 305 deaths had occurred, with 323 patients considered cured. By 5 February at 7.45pm GMT, this gap had widened considerably, with 493 deaths and 1,043 recovered patients, thanks in part to these new tests.
Breakdown by province
While there is still uncertainty around the virus, it looks extremely unlikely to reach the proportion of the H1N1 outbreak that originated in the US in 2009 – ultimately, by far the most widespread outbreak of recent years, infecting some 1.6 million people, with a 17% mortality rate. As you can see in the chart below, the current Fatality Rate for 2019-nCov is significantly below that of any of the other recent viruses.
2019-nCov: comparison to other recent virus outbreaks
Within China, drug registration and additional medical devices are being streamlined through emergency approval procedures until such time as the outbreak is deemed fully contained, with a spokesman for the NMPA stating that they “will continue to adopt this special approval channel to speed up the marketing of the products.”
Given it is currently cold and flu season, it is easy to mistake your common cold and flu symptoms for those of 2019-nCov. Regardless of your location, any person that believes they may have contracted 2019-nCov are advised to quarantine themselves, wear a face mask, cough and sneeze in to tissue, constantly wash your hands and ring your doctor/local hospital in advance so that they may be well prepared for your visit.
The limited number of cases, despite the population density of China’s cities, can be chalked up to the swift reaction of experts and government officials to limit the spread of the previously unknown disease. Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, has numerous strict measures in force to curb exposure.
The military has been mobilised and the entire province is under strict travel quarantine, with those caught driving without good reason liable to revocation of their licenses and all non-essential flights grounded. And all over China, high-concentration public places such as cinemas have been shut until further notice. Other public spaces, such as shopping centres and supermarkets, have enforced rules requiring people to wear face masks if they want to enter. Most are also enforcing temperature checks at the door.
In an unprecedented effort, construction firms used state-of-the-art techniques in order to construct two overflow hospitals in Wuhan to care for those suspected of having the virus, and deemed high risk. The first was completed in just 10 days and has 1,000 beds, the second has 1,300 beds and was completed on 6th February.
In addition, despite Chinese New Year being the largest annual migration of humans on the planet – some three billion journeys are made in the period – the government has enforced strict intercity travel rules and decided to extend the national holiday by three days to reduce the density of travellers. Many companies are reportedly offering even further extensions of up to an additional two weeks, alongside the option to work from home. Consequently, the streets are empty.