What is Corona Virus?
They are a group of viruses that cause respiratory tract illnesses, including the common cold, but can be lethal for infants, the elderly and patients with weak or compromised immune systems, as per the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To the scientists’ horror, this viral pathogen’s previous incarnation was responsible for the 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Saudi Arabia and the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory (SARS) outbreak in China, making the latter a regular defaulter.
Transmission and Precautions
Initially, it was thought that 2019-nCoV escalated through human contact with animals because the source of the outbreak was believed to be fishes and live animal markets having bats and snakes in Wuhan. However Chinese authorities have confirmed that human-to-human contact can act as a transmitter as well. Germany and Japan have verified this report after observing the domestic transmission of the virus from a person who had recently visited Wuhan to someone who had not visited the city or China in general. The CDC noted that symptoms may emerge between 2 – 14 days after exposure to the virus.
As a fight back measure to prevent its further global escalation, World Health Organization (WHO) has advised travel restrictions on people with flu-like symptoms. The sale of live poultry has been banned in the affected areas. Infrared thermometers have been installed at airports, railway stations, long-distance bus stations and ferry terminals for the screening of all passengers. Following a consultation, the patients will then undergo laboratory-based diagnostic testing for the virus and would be quarantined if tested positive.
China – The Déjà-Vu Epicenter
Even back in the SARS days, Chinese authorities were trapped in a controversy about the alleged cover-up of the impacts of the virus which may have been responsible for 8,000 cases and around 800 deaths.
This time around, it started on 31 December 2019, when a case of pneumonia with an unknown cause in Wuhan, Hubei province, was reported to the WHO’s China Office. As more and more cases emerged, totaling 44 by 3 January, the country’s National Health Commission isolated the virus causing fever and flu-like symptoms.
Earlier in January 2020, WHO had convened an emergency meeting with the Chinese authorities and President Xi Jinping, to discuss whether the 2019-nCoV outbreak should be declared as a public health emergency and what recommendations should be made on how to manage the condition. However, till then the virus had traveled from the city of Wuhan in China to Taiwan, Thailand, Korea and spread throughout Asia with cases in Singapore, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Nepal, Malaysia, and India.
Outside the Asian continent, new cases of the disease unfurled in France, Germany, the UAE, Canada, and Australia. As per Financial Times, the US CDC’s report about the emergence of the virus in physically well-protected US caused the benchmark S&P 500 stock index to slide 0.3%.
India’s Plan of Action
The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare of India confirmed the first case of coronavirus on 30 January 2020 followed by the second one on 02 February. Even if the person was in a stable condition during the monitoring process, the e-visas issued to those in China were revoked and the ones already issued were canceled temporarily.
As per the current numbers by national authority sources, the highest number of suspected cases in India is in Kerala while suspects have been reported in other states including Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Maharastra, Telangana, Karnataka, and Rajasthan.
Medical Route to Care
As of February 4, 2020, no specific treatment options are available for this particular strain of the virus. Various researchers are using the genetic code of virus shared by the Chinese Government to support the development of vaccines specifically against 2019-nCoV.
Some companies are investigating whether existing anti-viral drugs like Tamiflu could be successfully repurposed to treat this novel type of coronavirus. The Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is one group leading the field. It has funded three projects in collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health and National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Thailand though seems to have made some headway by seeing positive results after administering a cocktail of Anti-virals and HIV medication on a Chinese patient.