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China’s Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

  • IASbaba
  • January 25, 2020
  • 0
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Health

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health.

China’s Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Context:

800+ cases have been reported and at least 25 people have died from a new coronavirus in China following an outbreak in the central city of Wuhan.

About Coronavirus

  • According to WHO, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe respiratory illness (like SARS & MERS)
  • The name “coronavirus” comes from the Latin word “corona”, meaning crown or halo. Under an electron microscope, the image of the virus is reminiscent of a solar corona.
  •  A novel coronavirus, identified by Chinese authorities on January 7,2020 and currently named 2019-nCoV, is a new strain that had not been previously identified in humans. 
  • Little is known about the new virus but it is considered as a relative of SARS

Symptoms: Signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Origin: The infection from the new strain was traced to a Wuhan seafood market, which also sold live animals. The WHO also says an animal source appears most likely to be the primary source of the outbreak.

Spread: Beyond China, Thailand has reported four cases, while South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and the United States have each confirmed one. All these cases involve people who had either come from Wuhan or been there recently.

Transmission: Though these viruses are zoonotic – transmitted from animals to humans- there is evidence of respiratory transmission of the novel coronavirus from human to human as well.

What is being done to stop it spreading?

  • There is no vaccine for the new virus.
  • Chinese authorities effectively sealed off Wuhan on 23rd Jan 2020, suspending flights and trains out of the city and telling residents they could not leave without a special reason
  • Chinese authorities have also stepped up monitoring and disinfection efforts ahead of the Lunar New Year break, which formally starts on 25th Jan during which many of the country’s 1.4 billion people will travel domestically and overseas.
  • Airport authorities across Asia have quickly stepped up screening of passengers from Wuhan
  • Health authorities are trying to diagnose and isolate cases as quickly as possible and trace people patients have come into contact with to try to stay on top of the virus

WHO’s Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Is it a global emergency?

  • WHO said that though, this is an emergency in China. But it has not yet become a global health emergency i.e. not yet public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). It may yet become one in future.
  • The PHEIC is defined by the WHO as an extraordinary event that is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.

Criticism/Challenges

  • Shutdowns of cities like Wuhan (11 million inhabitants) cannot prevent human-to-human transmission within the cities. Shutting down entire cities go beyond the normal practice of quarantining infected people and might backfire.
  • WHO should actively communicate on the progress of virus control measures and if the virus spreads to other countries, declare the outbreak as PHEIC
  • 25 Indian students are trapped in Wuhan city, thus there is a need for Indian authorities to monitor & cooperate with Chinese counterparts to assure the safety of Indians in China.
  • Impact on the Economy especially on Aviation sector: Since it is period of Chinese New year, the restrictions on travel will impact the tourist sector. Also, the fear of disease spread and suspension of air travel imposed by China in certain cities will have a knock-off international aviation sector (especially Korean, Japanese, Singapore airlines)

Do You Know?

  • SARS (Severe Acute respiratory Syndrome), another coronavirus that originated in China, came from bats and the civet cat, which in turn passed it on to humans.
  • The early cases of this new infection were traced to the South China Seafood Wholesale Market. It thus emerged in China in 2002 and spread to 30 countries with 8400+ cases and nearly 800 deaths

Connecting the dots

  • Ebola Virus when WHO declared it as PHEIC
  • Wuhan informal Summit in April 2018 – why? Outcome? Any follow up informal summit?

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