There’s no stopping the new cases of the mysterious Sars-like virus. A third person died in the city of Wuhan, where the first outbreak of the infection was located.
new pneumonia virus discovered in China, code name 2019-Nov. On Monday, the death of a third person in the city of Wuhan, where the first outbreak of the infection was located, was reported on Saturday. The number of cases also increased: during the weekend the local health authorities identified 136 new infected individuals, while others were found for the first time in several cities in China, two in Beijing and one in Shenzhen, bringing the total to about 200. The first case also in South Korea, the third country outside China to report after Japan and Thailand. In Shenzhen itself, 40 citizens with suspicious symptoms are in quarantine, plus another five in Zhejiang Province, south of Shanghai.
What we know
The pathogen is a coronavirus, a large family of crown-shaped viruses including the Sars virus, which killed over 700 people worldwide in 2013, but also pathogens of lower aggression. The outbreak was detected in a food market in Wuhan, where the organism may have been transmitted from animals to humans. At the moment contagion between humans is not excluded, but it appears very difficult: about 800 people who have come into contact with Wuhan patients are being kept under observation and none have contracted the virus, as well as doctors and nurses. The infected people whose movements are known to have all recently traveled to Wuhan (although they have not necessarily visited the market). The first two victims were elderly: the first, 61, had several previous illnesses, the second, 69, arrived in hospital with damage to several organs.
The extent of the contagion
There are questions about the extent of the contagion. A study published by authoritative epidemiologists at Imperial College London, combining the cases detected abroad with the influx of people arriving and departing from Wuhan, estimated that the contagion could be much larger than the official numbers, about 1700 cases. But this does not necessarily mean that the authorities are underestimating it, or worse, hiding it: it is possible that many individuals with mild symptoms will cure themselves. Many may already be cured. The virus presents with fever and cough, only in some patients develops more serious diseases such as pneumonia.
The attitude of the authorities
After leaving responsibility for managing the epidemic to the local authorities in Wuhan for many days, the Chinese government broke its silence. On Sunday, the National Health Commission said the contagion was “predictable and controllable” while admitting that the initial source of the virus and its path have not yet been discovered. On Monday the Center for Disease Control and Prevention tried to fight “the rumors”, explaining on the society that it is not Sars. In China (and in the rest of the world) there is great mistrust of the management of these health emergencies by the communist authorities, who have tried to keep them hidden several times in the past. This time, however, the attitude appears very different, with much more transparency. In anticipation of the Chinese New Year (Saturday 25th), the largest mass migration on the planet, controls, and sterilizations have been organized in the main transport hubs. On the Net, there are images of two workers taking the temperature of the passengers on a plane leaving from Wuhan.
The American Center for Disease Prevention sent a hundred technicians to the airports of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco with the task of monitoring all passengers coming from Wuhan. Screening is an exceptional measure, which the United States had only adopted in the past during the Ebola epidemic. The World Health Organization has issued advice to combat the contagion: wash your hands, cover your nose and mouth when coughing, avoid close contact with people with flu symptoms, cook meat and eggs well, avoid direct contact with live animals.