Coronavirus outbreak in China: what we know at the moment - The360 Healthy

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  • Sunday, January 26, 2020

    Coronavirus outbreak in China: what we know at the moment

    Coronavirus outbreak in China: what we know at the moment

    A new type of coronavirus, dubbed “2019-nCov”, was identified in China at the end of December 2019. This Friday, three infected people were diagnosed in France. The epidemic is spreading. The concern is growing. Where does this virus come from? What are its symptoms? Where is the epidemic? We take stock of the situation.


    Friday, January 24, the Chinese Health Commission announced that the provisional assessment of the epidemic amounted to 41 dead and nearly 1,300 people infected. 237 cases are considered "critical". China has been on high alert for a month following the discovery of an epidemic of pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province in China. The cause of this phenomenon is a previously unknown virus, dubbed 2019-nCoV. The animal-derived virus is believed to have appeared in a local market specializing in the wholesale of seafood and fish. 56 million Chinese are confined throughout the province of Hubei.

    As of Friday evening, three cases of infection with the 2019-nCov virus were confirmed in France: one in Bordeaux, two others in Paris. The three hospitalized patients have all stayed in China and are now being treated under isolation measures. A dozen other countries are also affected. For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized "the emergency in China" but considered that it was too early to speak of "public health emergency of international scope".

    A new type of coronavirus?

    This previously unknown virus is believed to belong to the coronavirus family. The said family includes a large number of viruses capable of causing mild illnesses, such as a cold, but also more serious pathologies such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV). It has been provisionally named "2019-nCov", or "new coronavirus 2019". The market where he appeared was closed and disinfected on January 1, but the source of the infection has not been formally identified to date. Its incubation time and treatments are also not formally established.

    What are the symptoms of "2019-nCov" and how is the virus spread?

    According to WHO (World Health Organization) observations, the symptoms are: difficulty breathing and shortness of breath, high fever, and persistent cough. So many symptoms that can get worse over time: this new virus could also cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, or even death.

    According to Santé Publique France, "it is likely that this coronavirus is similar to that of other human coronaviruses, which are generally transmitted during close contact after inhalation of infectious droplets emitted during sneezing or coughing". It could also be frozen after contact with surfaces freshly contaminated with these secretions.

    Usually, coronavirus-type viruses are transmitted from animals to humans if they are too promiscuous. However, a Chinese scientist member of the National Health Commission, Zhong Nanshan, confirmed on Monday January 20 the transmission of the virus by close contact between humans. WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday evening that there was "no evidence" of human-to-human transmission outside of China so far. In addition, the Chinese authorities fear a risk of mutation of the virus which could accelerate its spread.

    Which countries are affected by the epidemic?

    The scientific community is unanimous: the focus of the epidemic is in Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million inhabitants located in the heart of China. To limit the spread of the virus, rail and air transport, buses and subways are suspended in many cities in Hubei. Municipalities order disinfection operations at stations, airports and shopping centers.

    To date, one or more cases of 2019-nCov have been confirmed in Asia: 1,1300 cases in China (41 deaths), 5 cases in Thailand, 3 cases in Singapore, 3 cases in Malaysia, 3 cases in Japan, 2 cases in South Korea, 2 cases in Hong Kong, 2 cases in Macao, 1 case in Vietnam, 1 case in Taiwan and 1 case in Nepal. 3 cases have also been diagnosed in France, 2 cases in the United States and 1 case in Australia.

    Health officials are stepping up precautionary measures as they approach the great Lunar New Year crossover - this Saturday, January 25.

    Are there any precedents?

    In a new press release, the WHO recalls that worldwide, new coronaviruses periodically emerge in different regions. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) particularly prevailed in Asia in 2002 and 2003, causing the death of more than 800 people. MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) struck in 2012.

    WHO recalls that many known coronaviruses circulate in animals and have not yet infected humans. More and more coronaviruses are therefore likely to be identified, as health surveillance improves.

    What precautionary measures to take?

    To limit the risk of international contagion, controls have become widespread in Asian countries.
    • Temperature controls have become widespread in airports to detect and isolate infected passengers, especially in Japan, the United States, Thailand, Hong Kong, Russia, but also in the United Kingdom, Italy or Nigeria.
    • In China, the authorities have placed 13 cities under quarantine. Residents cannot leave the city "for no special reason". All trains, planes and coaches from cities are suspended. The Chinese army has been called in to reinforce the epidemic: nearly 450 military doctors have been deployed.
    • The city of Wuhan has embarked on a race against the clock to build two hospitals in record time. They will be specifically dedicated to the care of patients infected with this coronavirus.

    Three cases diagnosed in France, the first in Europe

    Friday, January 24, the Minister of Solidarity and Health confirmed the presence of three infected people on French territory. All are hospitalized according to an isolation protocol, one in Bordeaux and two in Paris. All the people who have been in close contact with these patients are being counted. They will receive specific instructions from the health authorities to avoid contact, in order to limit the spread of the virus.

    At a press conference, Minister Agnès Buzyn recalled that the French health system had been on the alert since January 10. Public Health France, for its part, recalls that "this event does not call into question the currently very low risk of circulation of the virus in the French population."

    No need to cry pandemic, therefore. For all intents and purposes, remember that, according to the WHO, influenza is responsible for 650,000 deaths each year. Until the field assessments are completed, the authorities insist on the importance of keeping calm. The WHO also indicates that "on the basis of the information currently available, it does not recommend any travel or trade restrictions". Countries are simply encouraged to step up their preparedness for health emergencies in accordance with the International Health Regulations introduced in 2005.

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