Chinese coronavirus looks grim

Anthony Lopez, Contributing Writer

As I was writing this over the past few days, I became concerned that the statistics I would later mention in this article would constantly be outdated as new information is being released to the public. The death toll has increased each day, and the number of those infected with a novel coronavirus has grown not just in China but in several other countries as well – the United States being one of them.

Coronaviruses cause respiratory infections in mammals; a new strain of the virus was found in Wuhan City, China on Dec. 8 when a case of pneumonia was found to be untreatable using traditional vaccines. On Jan. 9, the first death by the virus was confirmed. Amid concern over the growing number of those infected in the city reaching the thousands, on Jan. 23, Mayor Zhou Xianwang placed Wuhan under a quarantine lockdown. Unfortunately, the virus has already spread to several other countries, whether it be due to people returning home from Wuhan or, according to Xianwang, the approximately five million citizens who fled the city just before the lockdown was confirmed. Many did not leave solely in an attempt to escape the virus, but also likely because the outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year, a major holiday in China.

Regardless, over 15 countries have confirmed that they have at least one citizen that has contracted the virus, resulting in a total of at least 50 cases outside of Mainland China. In the United States, five citizens currently have the virus and are located in California, Washington, Nevada and Illinois. While all five had recently visited Wuhan, coronaviruses are respiratory viruses, so health officials have been investigating individuals with whom the patients had recently come into contact. The results are inconclusive as of now. What is certain is that despite coronavirus originally being considered an infection that spread with difficulty and was rarely lethal, the speed in which it has spread suggests that this new strain is far more aggressive than could have been anticipated. As of Wednesday, the confirmed total number of deaths has reached over 170, though that number is likely to have increased already.

What is more gravely concerning is a revelation made by Chinese health minister Ma Xiaowei that the virus can spread much earlier than symptoms, such as fever, sore throat and headache. While the CDC has yet to confirm whether they fully agree with Xiaowei’s assertion, it has forced them to reevaluate their methods of tracking down possible patients. It is the coronavirus’ evolution which has led to some uncertainty in its transmission and incubation period and is partly the reason why the World Health Organization has yet to declare this outbreak a public health emergency. The full scope of this infection has not yet been confirmed.

Admittedly, it is difficult to tell just how severe this has been or will be. It seems as if the information coming in from Wuhan and infected sites simply can’t arrive fast enough. Each day a growing number of patients are killed by the virus, and an even greater amount is confirmed to be infected. Health officials are battling a new strain of this virus, and unfortunately, only time will tell if it can, like the Zika virus from 2016, be eradicated.

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