By now, you might have heard about the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China which is making global headlines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called a meeting today to determine whether to declare a global public health emergency over the disease.
The disease is transmitted via the respiratory tract and there “is the possibility of viral mutation and further spread of the disease,” National Health Commission Vice-Minister, Li Bin, said at a news conference in Beijing.
What is Coronavirus?
The virus first emerged in Wuhan in December and since then, China has confirmed 9 deaths with total cases rising to 440. Its origin is told to be a seafood market in Wuhan, which has since been sealed off.
The never-before-seen virus has been linked to a family of viruses which is similar to the deadly (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) SARS and (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) MERS viruses and it results in a pneumonia-like-illness with symptoms like runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and fever that can last for a few days.
To give you an idea about the gravity of the situation, MERS killed 3-4 out of every 10 patients whereas the rate for SERS stood between 0-50% before these were contained globally.
The virus usually spreads through animals, which is the reason why animals are not being allowed to enter Wuhan anymore.
Known by its technical name 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the virus has sparked fear, not just in China but across the globe as WHO has warned of the possibility of sustained human-to-human transmission of coronavirus.
The human-to-human transmission differs from limited person-to-person transmission. In human-to-human transmission, a virus can easily transfer from one person to another and then onto the next whereas it dies out after infecting a few people who are in close contact in case of person-to-person transmission.
To counter the spread of the virus, a number of countries, including the US, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Malaysia, have started screening for symptoms at major airports.
In alarming news, the first confirmed case of coronavirus has been identified in the United States. The reports claim that the person diagnosed with the disease has a travel history of China.
However, a few countries have already identified confirmed cases of the illness, including:
- China: 440 confirmed cases
- Thailand: 2 confirmed cases
- Japan: 1 confirmed cases
- South Korea: 1 confirmed case
- US: 1 confirmed case
- Australia: 1 suspected case
Treatment and Prevention
It’s good to prepare yourself for the worse, however, there’s no specific treatment for coronavirus, however, the doctors usually prescribe medication for the common cold in similar cases.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised using a hot shower or a room humidifier to help with a sore throat while also urging everyone to drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of sleep and rest.
There’s no vaccine for this family of viruses, therefore, all you can do is to avoid people who are sick. Regularly wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
For those who are sick (read infected), disinfect your surroundings regularly. Try to wear a mask and avoid contact and crowds.
Can it Come to Pakistan?
The answer to this is, ‘it definitely can’. That is if someone infected hasn’t already come to Pakistan in which case, it is already here.
With the number of Pakistani students and professionals in China and vice versa, there’s a huge possibility that the virus poses a great threat to Pakistan.
The alarming thing is that Pakistani health authorities are not usually serious about containing such viruses at airports and then cure it if someone is already a carrier.
Another significant thing to note is that China celebrates its Lunar New Year this week, which is one of the most important events in the country. Millions from across China and from all over the world visit the country as the locals tend to spend the event with their families whereas those on vacation find something entertaining to witness during their off days.
That said, a great number of Chinese will be traveling to (and from) China to Pakistan thus increasing the chances of the virus spreading in Pakistan.
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