covid-19

COVID-19: THE VIRUS WHICH TURNED CHINA INTO A NIGHTMARE

By Anirudh Ramakrishna Phadke

The Novel Coronavirus outbreak in China began in tandem with a significant holiday in the Chinese culture: the Lunar New Year. Parts of China, including Wuhan, went under unprecedented quarantines of large number of people in hopes of stemming the spread of disease, known as 2019-nCoV, which was later officially named as COVID-19 by the World Health Organization. The people were forced to cancel one of the most important cultural events of the year due this sudden epidemic.

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A brief analysis of the COVID-19 at the time period of its outbreak:

Nature of the virus:

This specific virus famously dubbed as 2019-nCoV belongs to the family known as Coronaviridae, subgenus being Sarbecovirus.  A team led by Shi Zheng-Li, a Coronavirus specialist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology on 23rd January on bioRxiv stated that this virus had 96.2% genome similarity with that of a Coronavirus (RaTG13) found in bats, which was the cause of SARS outbreak 15 years ago in China. Both the Virus differs by nearly 1100 nucleotides. Close study of this strain of virus has lead to discovery that it spreads between humans to humans through close contact and causes severe respiratory organ damage. The incubation period is estimated at 2-14 days (up to 2 weeks without symptoms).

Where the Virus did came from?

 The cause of the outbreak is suspected to be a zoonotic origin. Reports dating back to 8th December 2019 from the Chinese Health Authorities showed that the first patient caught the infection from the seafood market. At the end of December 2019, public health officials from China informed the World Health Organization (WHO) that they had a problem: an unknown, new type of virus was causing a mysterious illness similar to that of pneumonia in the city of Wuhan. After the reported outbreak all eyes were fixed at the Huanan Seafood Market as the origin point of this deadly outbreak. An article published in The Lancet recorded an important statement given by Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University. Out of 41 hospitalized patients with confirmed infections 13 had no epidemiological link to the marketplace. Lucey argues that the first human infections must have occurred in November 2019—if not earlier—because there is an incubation time between infection and symptoms surfacing. This raises a question regarding the origin point of the virus.

Timeline of the Outbreak (outside China) to bring out the chronological order:

  • On January 30th, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak as a Global Public Health Emergency. On January 31st United Nations issued 14 days quarantine rules for US citizens entering the US from China.
  • The very same day 2 cases from the UK, 2 from Russia and the first case from Sweden and Spain were reported. Canada reported its 4th case. India confirms its first case in Kerala.
  • On February 2, a death in the Philippines marked the first death occurring outside China.
  • On February 3, two new cases were reported in Germany.
  • The very same day a man in Hong-Kong died and 1st case of this virus is confirmed in Belgium. 2 new cases in Japan and 1 from Australia and Taiwan.
  • On February 4 Japan has confirmed at least 10 cases of Coronavirus from a cruise ship in the port of Yokohama near Tokyo. Earlier on the same day authorities quarantined 3700 passengers in an attempt to contain the virus from causing an outbreak.
  • As of February 5th nearly 28 countries around the world had confirmed cases of the virus. The widespread is caused due to people who traveled to and fro from Wuhan to other parts of the world.

A brief description of China during the early stages of the outbreak:        

                         The virus is spreading very rapidly in many parts of China and 29 other countries which include India, Japan, Singapore, USA, U.K., and Germany. The condition of the people in China is worsening at a rapid rate as state authorities of Wuhan shut down transport links which freezes the locomotion of people. The city of Huanggang was also placed under quarantine and the city of Ezhou closed its train stations, followed by Wenzhou since it had the highest reported cases after Wuhan. During early stages more than 28500 people was confirmed positive to this deadly virus of which 3700 are in critical condition and that accounts for 13% of the total infected people. The total death toll reaches 600 and increases at a rapid rate. Presently in Wuhan residents are enduring an isolated, frightening time. Most forms of traffic have been banned, and 18 million people isolatedin their homes. A video surfaced online in Weibo (China’s twitter) which shows people of Wuhan shouting ‘Wuhan Jiayou!’, this translates as ‘Stay Strong Wuhan’.

Interesting thing to be noted about this virus is that, its deadly capabilities make it an eligible bio-weapon. Three parameters  make this a potential bio-weapon. The first one being the transmission rate. Ro of this virus is 4.08% which means for every 1 person gets affected it transmits to the next 4 persons, which is quite high in number. The second parameter is the fatality rate. As of now, the FR is estimated at 3% which can go to any extent since the virus can mutate itself over time. The third parameter is the asymptomatic transmission, which is possessed by this type of virus. It means the virus can infect its carrier and can go undetected without any symptoms for 2 weeks. That is the reason why still the origin point of the outbreak cannot be determined.

It is still unsure whether this is an outbreak that is natural or man-made. Medical experts claim that novel Coronavirus is not an engineered one. John Nicholls a clinical professor in pathology at the University of Hong Kong was the key researcher and expert in Coronavirus stated that this virus will burn itself out in May when the temperature rises. It is a bad cold that kills people due to their poor health and unhealthy eating habits. This can be noted in China.

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