It started in the central city of Wahum, in Hebei province of China. It has so far infected over 530 people, leaving about 18 dead. It’s called coronavirus – a contagious kind of pneumonia that has kept Asia and the rest of the world on high alert.
By January 9, two people had died of severe respiratory failure in the city Wahum, prompting an investigation by the Chinese authorities. The symptoms were found to be related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The symptoms are fever, coughing and sometimes kidney failure. It also includes a runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache or fever that may linger for days.
Chinese scientists have linked the origin of the virus to animals. Leo Poon, a virologist at the School of Public Health at The University of Hong Kong, who was the first to decode the virus said.
“What we know is it causes Pneumonia and then doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment, which is not surprising, but then in terms of mortality, SARS kills 10% of the individuals.”
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. In rare cases, they are what scientists call zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from animals to humans – US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The human to human transmission of the virus happens when someone comes in contact with a carrier’s secretions. So a cough, sneeze or handshake can cause exposure. One can also be infected when he touches something an infected person has touched, then putting the hand into his mouth, nose or eyes..
There is no specific treatment for disease caused by a novel coronavirus. However, many of the symptoms can be treated. But treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition.
So far, over 17 people have been killed by Coronavirus in China and more than 500 are reported to be infected. There have also been confirmed cases in Hong Kong and the US respectively. The spreading speed of the virus has placed the US and UK authorities on their toes, and they are putting quarantine measures in place at airports to screen people coming into the country from affected areas.
“I do believe that the concern you see both inside China and internationally is a reflection of what we’ve seen in the past. 2003 was SARS, and a number of issues, where the government has been slow to respond out of fear of embarrassment or making things look worse than they are. And that reluctance to respond in a rapid manner doesn’t give the global community a secure feeling for this being managed inside China,” a senior State Department official said.
The UK Foreign Office has issued a warning to people to avoid traveling to Wahum and all affected places. A Foreign Office spokesperson said.
“In light of the latest medical information, including reports of some person-to-person transmission, and the Chinese authorities’ own advice, we are now advising against all but essential travel to Wahun.”
China has a reputation of concealing environmental crises from the public, in an attempt to avoid stirring tension and throwing the people into panic. The rest of the world is worried that it’s going to use the same method in managing this case of coronavirus, even though Beijing has shown willingness to share information with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US government. There is also report that public transport has been shut in Wahum to curtail the spread of the virus.
The WHO has issued public safety advisory in light of the development, especially at a point when over 400 million Chinese people are expected to travel from around the world for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Should Nigeria be worried?
In Nigeria, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) has sounded the warning, and the Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria has been placed on alert and has heightened screening measures at the points of entry. The screening measures include checking temperature of arriving passengers. The statement from NCDC reads:
“The Port Health Services unit of the Federal Ministry of Nigeria has been placed on alert and has heightened screening measures at the points of entry. In China, exit screening measures have been enhanced for travelers from Wuhan city at the Points of Entry (PoE) since the 14th of January 2020.
“This includes temperature checks combined with provision of information and masks to passengers with fever, as well as directing symptomatic passengers to health facilities for follow up.”
Although coronavirus appears to be spreading currently through temperate borderlines, the origin is linked to the camel, an animal common in Sub-Saharan. Moreover, the number of Chinese nationals who have traveled from Nigeria to China for the Lunar Year holiday presents the tendency of human-to-human infection.