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The 2020 Chinese Coronavirus Outbreak Updates: What You Need to Know

by Skye Sherman - January 27 , 2020


Photo Credit: by talkexam, flickr.com
Photo Credit: by talkexam, flickr.com

Nearly every press outlet around the world is tracking the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which is expanding to more and more places with every passing day. At this point, the coronavirus has reached an epidemic level, but the World Health Organization has not yet declared a global emergency.

As of USA Today’s latest update, “China’s death toll rose Monday to 81 while confirmed cases across the nation ballooned to more than 2,700 since the coronavirus was discovered last month.” In response, US President Donald Trump has offered any help necessary.

So what is coronavirus? How does it spread? What are the symptoms of coronavirus and what can we do to prevent or avoid the disease? In this article, we’ll take a look at the current state of coronavirus around the world to help keep you and your family safe, especially if you have upcoming travel plans.

Read on to learn the latest news surrounding the coronavirus outbreak as well as what US and Canadian citizens need to know, symptoms to look for, what you should do about your travel plans, and how to avoid this deadly virus.

The Novel Coronavirus: The Basics

The current outbreak of coronavirus is formally known as 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV. According to the World Health Organization, “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.”

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are commonly found in animals. However, in rare cases such as what is happening now, coronavirus is a type of disease referred to as a zoonotic disease, which means it is transmitted between animals and humans. Unlike diseases such as Zika, coronavirus is not a mosquito-borne illness.

Other zoonotic diseases include ebola, which was carried by fruit bats; severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which was transmitted from civet cats to humans; and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), which was transmitted from camels to humans.

The viruses can make people sick, from only mildly sick to potentially deadly illness. Typically, the viruses bring on symptoms like a mild to moderate respiratory tract illness, which can feel similar to a common cold. Coronavirus affects the respiratory tract and can therefore potentially lead to respiratory failure.

When and Where Did Coronavirus Start? Is Coronavirus Contagious? Is Coronavirus Deadly?

The 2020 coronavirus is sometimes also being referred to as the Wuhan coronavirus because the current strain of the virus originated in Wuhan, China.

The current 2020 coronavirus outbreak started on December 31, 2019, when the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology (or unknown cause) detected in Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of China, according to the World Health Organization. Soon, by January 7, 2020, a novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified by Chinese authorities as the causative virus.

On January, 10, 2020, the WHO published a guide for all countries explaining how to prepare for this virus, such as how to monitor for sick people, test samples, treat patients, control infection in health centers, maintain the necessary supplies, and communicate with the public about this new virus.

The coronavirus is contagious and now being spread from human to human, making the situation more dangerous than ever.

Coronavirus Outbreak in the United States and Canada: Updates on coronavirus spread

The coronavirus situation is changing minute by minute as the disease spreads and more cases are confirmed in China and around the world. Check The Washington Post Live Updates or National Post live updates for the most up-to-date information.

As of now, travel to and within China is restricted; Shanghai Disneyland is shut down; and hospitals are pleading for help in dealing with the overwhelming number of coronavirus patients. In fact, according to Business Insider, Wuhan is trying to build a new hospital in 6 days in order to accommodate patients; its health system is overwhelmed: “Doctors in Wuhan have said that people seeking medical attention have waited hours in line, that screening the disease is difficult, that there is not enough protective gear, and that some doctors have been told at times not to go to work over fears they could catch the virus.”

New cases have been confirmed in the United States, Canada, France, and Australia; the death toll is climbing. In Canada, Vancouver reports that “The Richmond News has learned that many pharmacies across the city are either completely sold out of surgical masks or only have a handful left. … Most of the outlets the News talked to confirmed that people were buying the masks because of the virus outbreak and that the high volume of sales was unusual, even for this time of year.”

According to The Globe and Mail, “A federal laboratory has confirmed Canada’s first case of the new coronavirus and is now investigating a second, prompting Ontario to introduce new screening measures to protect paramedics responding to emergency calls.” Still, Canadian officials assured the public that they will not implement mass quarantines.

A recent front page of USA Today displayed an article about the Chinese coronavirus outbreak under the somber headline “Coronavirus that killed 6 in China reaches US.” Things have only gotten worse and more dramatic since then, with more deaths and cases of coronavirus confirmed after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently confirmed the first case of coronavirus in Washington, United States.

The article states, “Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, called the news ‘concerning,’ particularly in light of reports that the virus has begun to spread from person to person. ‘The confirmation of human-to-human spread in Asia certainly increases our concern,’ Messonnier said.”

One of the downsides of our current ability to easily travel globally is the fact that now, the spread of infectious disease is just a plane ride away.

Still, there’s some good news too. “Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday that he expected more cases in the U.S. ‘Based on what we know now, risk to the general public is low,’ Inslee said in a statement. ‘We take this very seriously and, while this is the first case in the U.S., there will likely be others.’”

The CDC seems to feel that the US and Canada are at a lower risk for a coronavirus epidemic than other countries, but it’s important to take the threat seriously and to work to prevent its spread for the benefit of the whole world.

Panic in the US and Canada: how much are citizens at risk?

Among the precautions currently in place to prevent the further spread of the virus to US citizens is travel restrictions and screening. “The CDC, which began enhanced health screenings last week at airports in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, said Atlanta and Chicago would be added to the list. All travel from Wuhan, China -- where the outbreak began -- to the US is rerouted to these airports.”

It’s important to remember the other coronaviruses the globe has faced in the past. The Guardian reports, “Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (Mers) are both caused by coronaviruses that came from animals. Although Mers is believed to be transmitted to humans from dromedaries, the original hosts for both coronaviruses were probably bats.

“In 2002, Sars spread virtually unchecked to 37 countries, causing global panic, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing more than 750. Mers appears to be less easily passed from human to human, but has greater lethality, killing 35% of about 2,500 people who have been infected.”

While the coronavirus may not seem like cause for global alarm, the truth is that the virus is potentially deadly and the more people it infects, the worse the epidemic will become. In China alone, authorities have confirmed more than 2,700 cases of coronavirus and 56 deaths.

“In the past week, the number of confirmed infections has more than tripled and cases have been found in 13 provinces, as well as the municipalities of Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Tianjin. The virus has also been confirmed outside China, in Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the US, and Vietnam. … Modelling by WHO experts at Imperial College London suggests there could be as many as 100,000 cases, with uncertainty putting the margins between 30,000 and 200,000.”

As a result, many cities in China are on lockdown and Lunar New Year festivities have largely been canceled for the year of the rat.

Recovery from coronavirus depends in large part on the health and strength of one’s immune system; most of those who died were already in poor health. But the more it spreads, the more it can affect the most vulnerable among us.

How Does Coronavirus Spread? How to Prevent Coronavirus: Health and Hygiene Tips

According to the CDC, “Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, suggesting person-to-person spread is occurring. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.”

The WHO recommends the typical preventative measures for staving off the spread of infection, including washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of illness. Check out the WHO’s infographic on how to reduce risk of coronavirus.

While in most cases, a thriving social life is good for your health, in coronavirus it can make the situation worse since the virus is now spreading from human to human contact. Human coronaviruses usually spread from an infected person to others through the air due to coughing or sneezing, close personal contact such as touching or shaking hands, touching a contaminated object or surface that contains the virus and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands, and in rare cases, even fecal contamination.

It’s important to note that people with a history of chronic lung disease may be at a higher risk for “adverse outcomes,” according to USA Today. However, they point out, you’re more likely to encounter the flu or measles than the coronavirus, so these diseases should be treated as a more serious threat than coronavirus at this time.

There is also a risk that the virus will mutate, as The Epoch Times points out. That is how it is able to spread to humans when at first it was only found in animals. “Concerns have been heightened as millions of Chinese are expected to travel to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on Jan. 25 this year. Many return home for festivities or travel abroad for vacation, with official data showing that roughly 3 billion trips take place every year during the new year period. Wuhan has a population of 11 million people.”

To prevent the further spread of the virus as much as possible, it’s important to take precautionary measures such as wearing a mask, avoiding or limiting human contact, washing your hands frequently, and other preventative measures. Stay clean and stay clear of the virus.

What’s Happening with the Coronavirus Outbreak? What You Need to Know About Coronavirus

Unfortunately the coronavirus outbreak is only getting more serious and more widespread by the day. Coronavirus is confirmed in 15 countries: China, where it originated, as well as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Vietnam, France, Nepal, Malaysia, Australia, and Saudi Arabia.

In the latest situation report released by the WHO on January 26, 2020,

“On 26 January 2020, the number of reported confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has increased by 694 cases since the last situation report published yesterday.

A total of 2,014 confirmed 2019-nCoV cases have been reported globally;

Of the 2,014 cases reported, 1,985 cases were reported from China, including Hong Kong SAR (5 confirmed cases), Macau SAR (2 confirmed cases) and Taipei (3 confirmed cases).

Twenty-nine confirmed cases have been reported outside of China in ten countries.

Of these 29 exported cases, 26 had a travel history from Wuhan City, China.

Among the three cases identified in countries outside of China:

One case in Australia had direct contact with a confirmed case from Wuhan while in China;

One case in Australia reported today; travel history is not yet known.

One case in Vietnam had no travel history but was in contact with a confirmed case (his

father with travel history to Wuhan), resulting from human to human transmission within

a family.

Of the 1,975 confirmed cases (excluding Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taipei), 324 cases have been reported as severely ill.

Fifty-six deaths have been reported to date (52 deaths in Hubei province and 4 from outside

Hubei).”

Of course, the situation is changing every day, so your best bet for staying on top of the coronavirus outbreak news is to check back regularly with the WHO and monitor the news for any additional coverage of the virus spread.

Symptoms of Coronavirus: Could You Have Coronavirus?

With most cases of the 2020 outbreak, the common symptoms of coronavirus include headache and malaise plus symptoms commonly associated with the flu or common cold, including runny nose, cough and sore throat, and muscle pain. Complications that could arise from these symptoms include high fever, trouble breathing, pneumonia, and sepsis and possibly death.

Reportedly, the virus has an incubation period of seven days, so symptoms may not be immediately noticeable and may evolve over time.

As the WHO explains it, “Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS], kidney failure, and even death.”

This is why coronavirus is considered deadly. The symptoms of the virus itself are not necessarily what cause death, and in fact can be easy to recover from in a healthy person. However, if the virus causes complications or infects a person who is already at a higher risk of infection or serious illness, it can prove fatal, as we are already seeing in the six Wuhan deaths. Most of the coronavirus patients who have died had underlying health problems to begin with, and many were older than 60.

It’s imperative to notify a doctor or health practitioner if you are experience symptoms of illness of any kind, or if you suspect you may have contracted coronavirus. Your health, and the lives of many others, may be at risk.

Is There a Cure or Vaccine for Coronavirus?

There is no vaccine available for coronavirus yet. However, according to USA Today, there are nine studies currently underway that are examining the development of a coronavirus vaccine. It’s possible that we will see a vaccine soon, but we cannot rely on one yet.

There is also, unfortunately, no particular cure or treatment for coronavirus. Instead, doctors recommend employing a treatment regimen similar to what you’d do for a cold or flu, including getting lots of rest and fluids. If you are feeling ill, it’s vital to seek medical attention right away.

Should Travelers Avoid Asia during the Coronavirus Outbreak?

If you’re planning a trip to China or one of the other countries with reports of coronavirus, should you cancel your plans? China’s Lunar New Year celebrations typically involve significant travel to and from the country, so how will the coronavirus affect the festivities? After all, antiviral medications, even prescription ones, aren’t going cut it with this coronavirus outbreak.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus by travelers, The New York Times reports that “Officials in China have closed transportation links from and within Wuhan, and are imposing travel restrictions on other affected cities. These steps have significantly escalated the country’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus just days before the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions travel in and out of the country.”

Double check your travel plans and keep a close watch on the developing situation in the coming days because it is prone to change quickly.

Take note of CDC travel notices, which were recently raised to Warning Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel: “CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan.”

The decision to travel anywhere should be based both on the current travel restrictions or warnings in place as well as your own personal health situation and the nature of the trip.

Those who do travel to China or elsewhere during the coronavirus outbreak need to make sure to avoid unnecessary contact with other humans as well as animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).

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DISCLAIMER

While the above article is based on thorough research, we do not claim to offer a substitute for medical advice from a qualified healthcare provider. We aim to provide helpful information to our readers, but cannot provide a treatment, diagnosis, or consultation of any sort, not even for pets, and we are in no way indicating that any particular drug is safe or appropriate for you and your individual needs. To receive professional medical attention, you must see a doctor.