1 What is the Coronavirus?
The Wuhan virus is the name the media has been using to talk about this new strain of a coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. A coronavirus is a bacteria with a “crown” of small spikes poking out of it, which looks like the sun’s corona, pictured above. Coronaviruses often cause respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, having difficulty breathing and diarrhea. The symptoms may mirror a flu or rough cold. As of Wednesday, February 5, over 28,000 people have been diagnosed and 565 people have died. However, so far 911 people have officially recovered.
2 Where has the virus spread?
The coronavirus originated in a live animal market in Wuhan, China in Hubei Province (above). It is thought to have been carried by a small animal, such as a bat, and then transferred to humans. The virus can be transmitted person-to-person by touch or by coughing or sneezing. The virus has since spread to 22 other countries, however there is a much lower number of incidents. Only two people have died outside of China, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea have closed their borders to China and Hong Kong has closed all but three of their border points. Several airlines have halted service to and from China, with the passengers on any remaining flights out of the area going through various screenings. People being flown out of China are kept in quarantine for two weeks to see if symptoms develop.
3 What is being done to stop the virus?
The city of Wuhan has been completely quarantined and there are travel restrictions on 12 other cities in Hubei Province. The Chinese government has built two new hospitals in Wuhan to deal with the influx of diagnosed cases. Thousands of medical workers have also been deployed. The biggest problem has been the lack of available supplies, such as testing kits and surgical masks and gloves. However, new supplies are quickly being shipped in, even from the Vatican.
Labs in Mainland China, the U.S., France, Germany and Hong Kong have also been working to develop a vaccine from virus samples taken from patients. Projections say that a ready-to-distribute vaccine would not be done for another six months to a year. However, a similar outbreak of the SARS virus in 2003 was completely contained by medical workers before the vaccine was finished.
4 How has the quarantine affected the area?
The quarantine in Wuhan is especially hard because it was put into effect only a couple of days before the Chinese Lunar New Year. The Lunar New Year, which is the start of the longer Spring Festival, is China’s biggest holiday. It is tradition to travel home to visit family during the festival, with around 80 million people riding on planes or trains during the peak travel period. The outbreak has prevented thousands of people from celebrating this year.
5 How can I protect myself from the virus?
While face masks can reduce your risk of catching the virus in a crowd, they are not guaranteed to prevent you from getting sick. The material is not thick enough or close enough to your face to filter all of the air you are breathing. Experts stress that the best way to avoid getting sick is to wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Patients already diagnosed are advised to rest, drink plenty of fluids and try to get enough oxygen.
6 This could have happened anywhere.
Even though the virus first appeared in Wuhan, it is not a “Chinese virus.” The coronavirus is thought to have been carried by a small animal; anyone who would have come into contact with this animal anywhere in the world could have gotten sick. Not all Chinese people carry the virus either. The global community should not let fear stop them from sending aid to the people in China and our local communities should focus on comforting the people displaced by quarantines or with families at risk. We here at Chinosity wish everyone a full recovery.