Better the devil you know then the devil you don’t, goes the wise saying. In this case, the devil is the deadly Wuhan coronavirus that has to date infected over 6000 people and claimed the lives of 132. With the virus said to be evolving as we speak, scientists are racing against time to develop a vaccine that they hope will save lives. Here in Malaysia, thousands of miles away from the Hubei province of which Wuhan – the source of the infections – is the capital, the chaos of a pandemic seems a distant albeit sinister shadow. However, with the number of people here in Malaysia diagnosed with the virus rising to seven people, it’s important to know what we’re dealing with and how we can lower the chances of contracting this illness.
Read all about staying safe and protecting yourself from the virus here.
The following are important information and updates on the Wuhan coronavirus.
A virus very similar to the Wuhan coronavirus was discovered several years ago by researchers in a cave in Yunnan province, about a thousand-odd miles away from the southwest of Wuhan.
What is the Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a large group of viruses found in animals. In rare cases, the virus can transmit to humans and in even rarer cases, from human to human. Besides the Wuhan Coronavirus, there have been only two other instances when a coronavirus has attacked humans and caused death – they’re the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) was first notified of the Wuhan coronavirus on the 31st December, 2019. Officials were immediately on alert as it was an unknown virus and its effect on humans required more research. One week later on January 7th, the Chinese authorities confirmed that they had indeed identified a new virus which scientists called 2019-nCoV. Foreign media had reported that Wuhan officials were slow to react after the pandemic was announced, causing a delay in awareness and action against the disease.
The disease favours the old and the weak
According to Dr Maria van Kerkhove from Department of Diseases and Zoonosis Unit at WHO, 64 percent of those who contracted the disease are male. The illness tends to attack those in the older age group with 72 per cent of patients being above 40 years of age. Click here for the complete documentation of the press briefing.
How contagious is it?
The Central Department of Contagious Diseases (CDC) believes the incubation period of the virus to be anywhere from 2 to 14 days. At an interview, China’s health minister Ma Xiaowei told reporters that the disease could spread before the patients show any symptoms.
The actual number of patients affected by the Wuhan coronavirus may be higher than the 6000-odd cited by the Chinese Government. Due to a shortage of test kits, scientists believe the number may actually be much higher. Academics from the Imperial College London have estimated the actual number of patients to be 100,000.
Although it’s early days yet, scientists believe that the Wuhan coronavirus isn’t as deadly as SARs. This is based on a comparison of the fatality rate between the two diseases. However, the experts say that the Wuhan coronavirus is more contagious than SARS.
Racing for a vaccine
Scientists fron Australia and the US as well as three major pharmaceutical companies are working with Chinese doctors and researchers to create a Wuhan coronavirus vaccine. Within hours after the Chinese reseachers posted the genetic code on a public database, American researchers in Maryland had found the letters of the genetic code that could be used to make the vaccine.
Closure of public areas
Major public attractions like Disneyland as well as F&B outlets in China like McDonald’s, Starbucks and Yum China – the country’s largest restaurant company which operates Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut domestically, have temporarily closed their doors to the public in their bid to protect lives and prevent the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading.
In the face of crowded hospitals and clinics, and insufficient medical supplies, China is speed-building two hospitals –designed to accommodate 1000 beds per building. Wuhan Huohenshan hospital is scheduled to complete on February 3rd while Leishenshan hospital is due to complete February 5th. You can view the progress of the hospitals in this live video from New China TV.