The Early Stages of Coronavirus Outbreak

By Carina Baishiki, Clarion Staffer

The well known and globally feared coronavirus is actually a large family of viruses which cause many different illnesses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The first case reported of MERS-CoV was in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The largest known outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula was in the Republic of Korea in 2015, which was associated with a traveler from the Arabian Peninsula. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is a viral respiratory illness also related to and caused by the coronavirus called the SARS-associated coronavirus . At this time this specific virus is not spreading in the community in the United States, the virus that was originally called the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and was renamed COVID-19 (“CO” stands for corona, “VI” stands for virus, and “D” stands for disease) by the World Health Organization (WHO). .

COVID-19 is another form of coronavirus, as were previous viruses SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. The virus is known to be found in animals such as camels, bats, cats, and cattle. It was first identified in Wuhan, China. The first bizarre incident was when hospitals in China were getting many cases that were first thought of as pneumonia. Later doctors discovered it was actually COVID-19. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and William Schaffner, MD, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), the COVID-19 has less severe implications than other coronaviruses and therefore will be treated and evaluated differently.

The source of the COVID-19 is allegedly said to have come from a seafood and poultry market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Although, others claim that the source came from people eating exotic foods such as “bat soup” to be blamed. A video has recently surfaced showing a woman eating “bat soup” with a pair of chopticks holding a bat. This shocking video caused many to blame the coronavirus on China’s eating habits. An article published on Foreign Policy, has stated that the video was filmed in Palau, an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. This video was also filmed back in 2016 which is way before the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. The cause of the virus could be similar to this video, but hasn’t been confirmed.

Due to the outbreak, CDC and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are continuing to conduct enhanced entry screening of passengers who have been in Wuhan within 14 days at 5 designated U.S. airports. Therefore, travel out of Wuhan has been shut down and the number of passengers who meet this criteria are decreasing. 

As of March 4, the death toll due to COVID-19 has neared 3,200. It has been identified in at least 23 countries worldwide. There have been 1,016 cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 31 deaths. The death rate is 3.1% in the U.S.The first reported case was announced on January 30, 2020. On that same day, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern”. Early on, only 6 people tested positive in California, Illinois, Washington, Wisconsin, and Arizona.  More continue to be confirmed to have outbreaks of the virus. Some evacuees of the coronavirus in China have been brought back to the U.S. and are being quarantined in the Travis Air Force Base for two weeks. Many patients in China have recovered from the virus, but as of January 20, 2020, 17 more lives have been lost. On February 1, 2020 a passenger on a cruise ship, Diamond Princess, was confirmed with COVID-19. On February 16, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services evacuated 328 American passengers from where the ship was docked in Japan, 14 of whom tested positive with COVID-19. 

It is currently unclear how fast and easy the virus can spread at the moment, but to prevent the chance of catching the virus it is suggested to avoid contact with others if they seem unwell. Body and hand hygiene is also very important. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can avoid spreading the virus to others. Face masks covering both mouth and nose can be helpful and effective as well.

Some symptoms of the COVID-19 are: fever, cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, and vomiting. These symptoms can lead to severe acute respiratory illness, death (the chances of this are 3 or 4 out of 10), kidney failure, or pneumonia. A few cases of the virus included patients with mild, cold-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. If any of these symptoms occur, seek medical care right away. Before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travels and symptoms.

As of now, with no vaccine or cure yet, the best way to prevent it is to avoid the virus in general. Avoiding close contact with people who are sick is a good way to help avoid getting sick. CDC also recommneds: covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; avoid touching your face; clean and disinfect objects frequently; stay home when you are sick unless seeking medical care; and wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Another way to reduce the chance of catching the virus recommended by the CDC is to get a flu vaccination. If affected, treat symptoms since there is no specific antiviral treatment currently.

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