Health officials in China have confirmed thathuman to human transmission of the coronavirus is possible. Over 200 people have been infected in China, Japan, Thailand and South Korea. Several countries, including India, have increased screening protocols at airports as a precaution.
On January 9, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the outbreak of the new virus. It was believed to have originated in China’s Wuhan city in Hubei province. This virus is a new strain of the coronavirus, which has long been seen among animals as a zoonotic virus. This means that the virus can spread from animals to humans.
According to reports, China’s National Health Commission, which has been studying the outbreaks and cases reported so far in detail, has stated that a number of medical workers who were treating infected patients have also contracted the virus.
Believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, this strain of the virus potentially marks the seventh coronavirus identified that can infect humans. Two other diseases caused by this group of viruses had earlier caused outbreaks and widespread fear throughout the world.
The first was the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (also referred to as the MERS virus) which was first reported in 2012. MERS caused severe respiratory issues and killed as many as 4 out of 10 individuals who had contracted the virus. The other disease caused by a coronavirus is the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which was also first identified in China, in Guangdong province. SARS also causes aggressive respiratory deterioration and can be extremely deadly.
As of Tuesday, officials in China confirmed that four people had died due to the virus and more than 200 have been affected by it. However, they have also assuaged the fears that this would turn into a repeat of the SARS outbreak of 2002.
Coronavirus may cause symptoms of a mild respiratory tract infection and manifest as a runny nose, cough, cold, sore throat, headache, fever and other symptoms of the common cold. Individuals who are prone to a more severe form of the infection are those with weakened immune systems, young children and the elderly.
While there is no known vaccine or cure, the treatment has largely been to provide supportive measures to control symptoms. It has been advised that individuals maintain personal hygiene measures such as hand washing, covering the face and mouth when coughing, and staying home if ill to prevent further transmission of the virus.