The Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak

People wearing face masks in Hankou Railway Station on January 22, 2020 in Wuhan, China

Since December last year, the city of Wuhan in China has become the epicenter for the novel Coronavirus (otherwise known as 2019-nCoV). More than 37, 000 people have been tested positive for the virus around the world whilst the death toll is currently over 800 people. Though they are mainly in China, two deaths have been confirmed in Hong Kong and the Philippines. With cases in 26 countries, the Coronavirus surpasses the death toll recorded in the SARS outbreak of 2002-03 in China.

The virus can be difficult to detect prematurely. Early symptoms can appear as early as 2 days or as late as 14 days after exposure. Starting with a fever and a dry cough, those infected can observe a shortness of breath and other respiratory issues a week later. However, it does not appear to induce a runny nose or sneezing. In more severe cases, it can cause Pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.

The recorded number of Coronavirus cases worldwide (as of 7th February 2020)

How is the world reacting?

As the numbers show, the Coronavirus remains a global threat. The World Health Organization (WHO) had recently declared the virus to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). In the wake of such an outbreak, at least 62 countries have recently implemented some form of China related travel restrictions in hopes of reducing the spread. This includes inspecting travel logs, border health checks and health declaration requirements. Most, if not all, has introduced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those who were recently in China or surrounding areas. Commercial airlines such as Singapore Airlines have suspended all flights in and out of China, causing mass hysteria over immigration and travel.

Two cruise liners: The Diamond Princess and the World Dream, have been quarantined as their passengers could be hosting the Coronavirus. In Japan, 64 out of 3,700 passengers of the first liner have been found to be infected. Meanwhile, off the coast of Hong Kong with 3,800 people on board, the second ship has pending health checks and test results. This comes as 3 passengers who had previously sailed on the cruise liner between the 19th and 24th of January have been tested positive for the virus.

Medical officers boarding the docked Diamond Princess at the Port of Yokohama, Japan

What is next?

Now as the world scrambles to develop a vaccine, experts warn it could take years before one can be fully developed. It needs to undergo various levels of development and human testing. The optics of safety and effectiveness need to be thoroughly calculated as well. Furthermore, the price estimates of research and development into this can lay anywhere between $200 million to $1.5 billion. Taking all this into account, a vaccine will only play a limited role in the near future.

Until then, the WHO advises for the practice of basic hygiene. This includes washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and avoiding touching your face, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid heavily crowded areas and seek medical attention if respiratory issues arise.

Article by Ivan Shahran