The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak has raised alarms as more cases emerge across the globe. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the epidemic a public health emergency calling for effective measures to contain its worldwide spread.
The announcement was made in a press conference that followed the second emergency meeting held last week at Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting was convened to assess and address the speed and scale at which the virus is spreading globally.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, expressed concerns over the rapid spread of the virus, “Our greatest concern is for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems that are ill prepared to deal with it.”
The announcement was followed by numerous more confirmed cases of the virus in the UK and USA. While the Department of Health and Social Care has released little information about the affected patients, the USA has confirmed at least 11 cases.
Originating from the seafood market in Wuhan, China, the virus has infected over 10,000 citizens and claimed more than 240 lives in the country. Globally, there are more than 170 confirmed cases. The virus has reached 19 countries, including Japan, Germany, Veitnam and India, although only one death has been reported, in Philippine, among those infected other than in China.
The authorities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are trying to expedite the testing capabilities to diagnose Wuhan coronavirus.
“The process is extremely expedited, and our colleagues have been working with us closely ever since we made the plan that we were going to do this in this way,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Controlling the Spread
The WHO and CDC are closely monitoring the virus prevalence, believing the transmission can be curbed with effective and timely measures. Ghebreyesus said that although the infection has a propensity to spread globally, the number is still limited. The world needs to act as one to limit further spread. Strong measures to restrain the spread and early diagnostic kits must be introduced to detect disease in early and curable stages. The suspected patient(s) must be isolated to prevent further occurrences.
Meanwhile, the WHO is sending a team of medical experts to collaborate with the scientists in China. The joint venture will study the clinical aspects of the disease, including original source of the virus and animal-to-human, and human-to-human transmission.
Credible medical journals, such as The British Medical Journal (BMJ), have announced to “openly and honestly” share findings of the outbreak to spread awareness and save precious lives.
How the Virus has Spread in China
Investigations have been underway to identify the original cause of coronavirus. Some sources believe bats to be the most likely host of the virus.
Weifeng Shi, professor at the Key Laboratory of Etiology and Epidemiology of Emerging Infectious Diseases in Universities of Shandong Province, studied the virus genetic material and compared it with the existing coronavirus specimens and found them to be remarkably similar (88%)
Study participants were 2019-nCoV patients who either visited or worked at the seafood market in Wuhan, China.
However, experts remain unclear about the original source. An earlier report believed snakes to be a likely transmitter. It will be a little while before the correct animal source can be identified.