Over the last couple of weeks, the coronavirus has spread to various cities in China, as well as other countries. The death toll has reached 80 while more than 2,000 people have been infected. Chinese health experts warn that the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger, warning people to become vigilant and protect themselves from contracting the illness.
Latest death toll and confirmed cases
As of writing, Chinese officials confirmed that there are 2,744 cases of the potentially fatal disease with 461 in critical condition and a death toll reaching 80.
The government reported additional cases, with five confirmed cases in Hong Kong and two in Macau. Hong Kong started to deny entry to people who have visited the Hubei province, where Wuhan City is located, during the past two weeks.
Wuhan in Hubei is currently in lockdown and many other cities have issued travel bans. More than half a million medical staff have joined control, prevention, and treatment operations in the virus outbreak ground zero. The city has built more two new makeshift hospitals with at least two thousand beds, while factories work double-time to produce protective clothing and masks.
Cases in other countries
The Wuhan coronavirus or novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) first emerged in the city of Wuhan in China on New Year’s Day. In a couple of four weeks, the virus has spread to other countries, including Japan, Thailand, France, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Australia, and the United States.
France has confirmed its three cases in Jan. 24, while Australia announced five cases of the novel coronavirus. In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed its third case in Southern California, with more than 60 patients under observation for possible infection in over 20 states.
Virus’ ability to spread getting stronger
The new coronavirus strain is still under investigation since scientists have yet to fully understand its destructive potential. At present, scientists and health experts are trying to figure out where the virus started, how it’s transmitted, and how far it has spread.
Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus particles (blue) found near the periphery of an infected VERO E6 cell (yellow). Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID
During the first days of the outbreak, Chinese health officials traced the infection in a market in Wuhan City, but with the fast spread of the virus, they believe the virus can spread via human-to-human transmission. Chinese authorities also warned the public that the virus was able to spread during its incubation period, making it more difficult to control and contain.
The incubation period in humans is the period during which a person has the infection but no symptoms. The officials believe that in the current outbreak, the incubation period ranges between one and 14 days. Further, the country’s health minister said that the country is now entering a crucial stage since the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger. China's National Health Commission Minister Ma Xiaowei did not estimate how long it would take to control the situation, but he added that travel restrictions and other precautionary measures can help mitigate the spread of the virus.
The current epidemic has revived memories of the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that also originated in China, killing nearly 800 people as it has spread in many countries across the globe.
How to protect yourself
The Wuhan coronavirus or the 2019-nCoV belongs to the same family as that of SARS and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). Coronaviruses belong to a family known as Coronaviridae. Usually, these viruses are found in animals, including livestock, pets, and even wildlife animals like bats. When these viruses transmit to humans, they can cause many signs and symptoms, such as fever, the difficulty of breathing, colds, cough, and inflammation in the lungs.
People who are at the highest risk of developing serious illness are those with compromised immune systems, the elderly, pregnant women, children, infants, and those with underlying respiratory disease.
The CDC warns individuals to report symptoms including fever, chills, headache, and sore throat, and seek medical attention immediately, to treat the condition and prevent further spread of the virus. Travelers should try to avoid contact with other people who display symptoms.
People should avoid going to crowded places, coming in contact with sick people, animal markets, and live or dead animals, including uncooked meat. Proper handwashing of about 20 seconds with soap and water is important to reduce the risk of contracting the virus. Do not touch your nose, mouth, or eyes with unwashed hands.
Further, for those who manifest the symptoms of Wuhan coronavirus, they are advised not to travel, seek medical attention, and cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
The Wuhan coronavirus infection has no known treatment and vaccine. At present, health practitioners provide treatment for the symptoms of the disease and supportive measures to prevent complications.