Australia's first coronavirus death puts country on alert

The rapid spread of the coronavirus outside China has intensified as the total number of infections globally has topped 90,000, and the number of deaths reached more than 3,000. The sudden surge of cases in Italy, Iran, and South Korea have left health officials concerned about the magnitude of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

Australia, with 30 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, yesterday reported its first death related to the contagious disease. The patient, a 78-year-old man, was a passenger of the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML
Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

First coronavirus death

The patient has been in the intensive care unit at a Perth hospital after he fell ill when he contracted the virus on the ship docked in Yokohama, Japan. Health officials said that the case should not be a cause of panic since it was related to the cruise ship.

Overall, the country has 30 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including the wife of the patient who died. She is in a stable condition and is undergoing treatment.

The man who died in the sixth passenger to die from the virus acquired on the Diamond Princess, wherein more than 705 had tested positive for the virus.

Further, the government estimates that a greater spread of the illness will start by late April or May, needing to ramp up some of the activities. The health officials fear that the disease will hit Australia at its peak in August, which is the coldest month with the highest levels of flu.

The Health Department also reiterated that there is no general risk related to the country’s first death. Family members only talked to the patient through the glass in the isolation room or through phone calls.

The health department had tested the man early on when he was on the flight back from the Diamond Princess. He was immediately placed into isolation and had no contacts outside the isolation area.

Airplane flight coronavirus fears

Health officials urge all passengers who had been on a specific Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Sydney last week to go to the emergency department or see a doctor as soon as possible. The flight, QR908, had a female passenger who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The woman had no symptoms before and during the flight, but about 24 hours of landing, she fell ill. However, it was six days after that the woman sought medical attention. The government is now tracking the passengers of the flight, particularly those sitting near the woman.

No longer possible to prevent new cases

The chief medical officer of Australia, Brendan Murphy, said it is no longer possible to prevent new cases of the coronavirus from entering the country. He encourages those who are returning from South Korea or Italy, who works as a healthcare worker, or as a residential aged care worker, to refrain from attending their regular work for 14 days, which is the estimated incubation period of the virus.

The chief medical officer also said that though there are high transmission rates in South Korea and Japan, the health officials are also concerned about those who are coming from high-risk countries, since the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Europe and other Asian countries.

Currently, travel bans are in place to help slow down the spread of the virus.

Global coronavirus status

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has spread rapidly in 76 countries, which was reported in five additional countries, including Ireland, Monaco, Ecuador, Azerbaijan, Qatar, and Scotland.

South Korea has reported the highest number of cases outside China, with the number of infected people reaching 4,335. Italy has more than 2,036 cases, while Iran has nearly 1,501 cases. The number of cases in other countries has also soared with Japan having 274 confirmed cases, followed by France with 191 and Germany with 159, Spain with 120, Singapore with 108, and the USA with 101.

The number of deaths also increased with Iran leading with 66 deaths outside China. Of the more than 90,306 cases, an estimated 45,602 have already recovered.

Sources:

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE - https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 41. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200301-sitrep-41-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=6768306d_2

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

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Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

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