The Coronavirus outbreak: Another huge challenge for medical experts and scientists

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While the world had thought it had recovered from the devastating effects of the deadly Ebola virus, which caused numerous deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, Liberia and elsewhere, another dangerous virus, Coronavirus (dubbed 2019-nCov) has sprung up elsewhere in China. So far, the latest deadly virus has killed more than 106 victims and infected 4500 others.

Medical professionals and scientists across the globe have stepped up their efforts to discover ways to curtail the new killer virus. It does not help that the infectious virus manifested in China during the country’s Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, China’s busiest travel season. To curtail the rapid spread of the virus, the Chinese authorities have put a travel ban on more than 56 million people in almost 20 Chinese cities – including Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, where the virus started to spread.

Even though, researchers at the US. National Institutes of Health have disclosed that they are in preliminary stages of developing a vaccine and a treatment for the virus, the fear globally is that the virus could leave many dead if unprecedented steps are not taken urgently to tackle the aggressive virus.

What is coronavirus?

According to World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness such as common cold and more severe diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and middle east respiratory syndrome (MERS). These viruses can also cause lower tract-illness like pneumonia. They are associated with the animals, with only a small percentage known to affect people. The name coronavirus originates from the Latin word Corona, meaning crown or halo.

Apart from 2019-nCoV, MERS and SARS, there are other common types of coronaviruses which include 229E, NL63, OC3 and HKLM according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

Symptoms of coronaviruses

A study carried out by the Lancet journal indicates that the signs and symptoms exhibited by the new virus are similar to those of SARS. The severe acute respiratory syndrome was first reported in 2002 in Southern China and reportedly caused deaths of hundreds during its two years of existence. It was transmitted from civets bats to humans with the common symptoms being fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. There were also cases of kidney failure and pneumonia.


The origin of coronaviruses

The virus is suspected to have originated from a local seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The first case was reported on December 8 but the local officials rubbished the initial reports; they insisted it was not dangerous. Later, the authorities reported that the condition was controlled and treatable, according to the reports published in the New York Times. The workers selling live fish, animals and birds were linked to the cases. A study published in the Journal of Medical Virology stated that a change in the viral proteins in disease enables the virus to get attached to certain host cells.

 It was further reported that the Chinese authorities attempted to silence the critics over the spread of the deadly disease. Police arrested and interrogated those who posted on social media about the disease. With the spread of the virus seemingly very difficult to curtail or silenced, the authorities in Wuhan had no option than to announce earlier this year the severity of the outbreak.

With the present rapid spread and casualties, other affected cases have been confirmed in the Asian country and other parts of the world, including the USA, France and Germany. However, most of the victims and deaths are from the Wuhan area of China, according to the latest report published by the BBC. Worse still, it has been lately confirmed the virus can spread before the symptoms appear. That makes the virus very dangerous and many people vulnerable to the virus.

Even though it is unclear whether the virus can spread between people, CDC has divulged that it is possible but in rare cases. However, it is proved that coronaviruses are transmitted from an infected individual to another via the air, close personal contacts, object with viral particle on it and sometimes from faecal contamination.

Where have cases been reported?

Cases of coronavirus have been equally reported in Thailand, France, US, France, Germany, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Nepal, Australia and Taiwan. The individuals who have contracted this virus are believed to have travelled to China.


Without any approved drugs for the treatment of coronavirus, experts have recommended supportive care to the patients. In some cases, a ventilator may be used to push air into the lungs according to medical practitioners. Quarantine is equally recommended for infected persons.

Precautionary measures

Chinese authorities resorted to the construction of a new hospital in the city of Wuhan to ease pressure on pharmacies and other health facilities which have begun to run out of medical supplies. The 1000 bed hospital is set to be completed in less than one week. Travel restrictions from one city to another have also been put into place. People are forbidden from moving to and from the city with roadblocks installed at the entrances and exits.

Moreover, the authorities have suspended flights and trains out of the city. Major tourist sites have been shut and public events called off. The local media have reported that people returning from the affected areas have been directed to stay indoors for two weeks to curb the spread of the virus.

CDC has appealed to those travelling to China to avoid live animal markets, regularly wash their hands, avoid touching their faces and keep away from anyone sneezing or coughing. Travellers have also been asked to wear masks to curtail the spread of the virus.

This is the time to join hands together and fight the spread of coronavirus. Today, the virus is in China, tomorrow it could be at your doorstep if necessary steps are not taken to fight the deadly virus – especially, now that globalisation has made travelling and physical interaction very easier and inevitable.