Spreading virus continues to cause worry - GulfToday

Spreading virus continues to cause worry

Spreading virus continues to cause worry

President Xi Jinping has expressed confidence that China can defeat the “devil” coronavirus.

The onslaught by the coronavirus, which has already claimed more than 100 lives and affected thousands, continues to remain a matter of global concern.

Though President Xi Jinping has expressed confidence that China can defeat the “devil” coronavirus, there has been growing alarm around the world as can be gauged by nations from France to Japan organising evacuations and Hong Kong planning to suspend high-speed rail and ferry links with the mainland.

The concern is plausible because the virus has managed to spread around 15 countries.

With 56 million people subject to travel curbs in Hubei province, China has even urged its citizens to delay overseas travel.

Financial markets too have been rattled. Investors are worried about the impact on the world’s second-biggest economy amid travel bans and an extended Lunar New Year holiday.

Global stocks fell again, oil prices hit three-month lows and China’s yuan currency dipped to its weakest in 2020.

Coronaviruses are a large family of respiratory viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Known as “2019-nCoV”, the newly identified coronavirus can cause pneumonia and, like other respiratory infections, it spreads between people in droplets from coughs and sneezes.

It is too early to know what its death rate will be, since there are likely to be many cases of milder disease going undetected.

Limiting human-to-human transmission and identifying patients early continue to remain major challenges.

Understanding the time when infected patients may transmit the virus to others is critical for control efforts.

It’s a matter of surprise that a World Health Organization (WHO) panel of 16 independent experts twice last week declined to declare an international emergency.

Nonetheless, it is known that traditionally, WHO is reluctant to antagonise or ostracise countries dealing with epidemics for fear of undermining future willingness to report cases of infectious disease outbreaks.

China has been eager to show it is transparent over this outbreak, after initially covering up the extent of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic that killed about 800 people globally in 2002-2003, and that’s the correct approach.

What offers some comfort is the remark by Zhong Nanshan, a renowned scientist at China’s National Health Commission, that the outbreak will not increase at a large scale, and that the fatality rate would certainly continue to fall even though no cure had been found so far, thanks to life support technology and efforts of researchers and medical workers.

But Ma Xiaowei, the head of China’s National Health Commission, has stated that the virus is contagious during the incubation period. This is a cause for worry as asymptomatic people could be spreading the disease undetected.

As per Chinese health authorities, many of the people who have tested positive for the virus without showing any symptoms were known close contacts of existing cases, so they were more likely to deliberately avoid public spaces.

WHO officials have correctly stated that at a time of uncertainty about how the virus originated and behaves, it is even more critical that countries, organisations and the international community act as one.

As transmission of novel coronavirus appears similar to that for MERS and SARS, WHO has recommended basic principles such as avoiding close contact with those suffering from acute respiratory infections, frequent handwashing, and enhanced infection prevention practices in healthcare facilities.

Prevention is certainly better than cure.

Related articles