By Jack Dunn and Charlie Gstalder | Campus News Editor and Staff Writer
The United States has confirmed a fifth case of the Wuhan Coronavirus. China has confirmed 2,744 cases of the virus. 1,424 cases were in Hubei, the providence in which the first cases were detected. The mayor of Wuhan City, where the virus began, claims another 1000 people are likely infected. The death toll stands at 81. No deaths have been reported outside of China.
Coronaviruses are a large and fairly common family of viruses that infect both animals and humans. Viral strains vary in severity, with some forms of Coronavirus causing the common cold, and others such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory System (MERS) resulting in hundreds of deaths globally. SARS was originally transmitted from infected bats to palm civets and MERS was transmitted from bats to camels. SARS, MERS, and the Wuhan Coronavirus are more dangerous because the viruses can latch onto the proteins surrounding lung cells. This allows the virus to penetrate deeper into the airways, causing severe lung disease.
The Wuhan Coronavirus, also known as the Novel Coronavirus, is a new strain of Coronavirus that appears to have initially been transmitted from an animal to a human in a Wuhan Wet Market. Wet Markets are common fixtures in China, and are places in which one can purchase anything from fruits, vegetables, and steaks, to hedgehogs, palm civets, and wolf cubs. The potential danger of these markets arises from the presence of hundreds of live animals being sold in close quarters. The virus is believed to have originated in the Huanan seafood market and was likely transferred from bats to one of the types of animals sold at the market. The Huanan market was closed on January 1st but further cases have been confirmed, leading medical officials to believe that the virus is now being spread from human to human contact. The Health Minister of China states that it is possible for people to be contagious before showing symptoms. Estimates on the virality of the virus have proven inconclusive, but many Epidemiologists, doctors who study the spread of illnesses, calculate that a sick individual could infect between 1.5 and 3.5 people.
The Chinese Government has taken drastic action in an attempt to contain the outbreak. On Monday, China’s Finance Ministry and National Health Commission allocated $8.74 Billion for outbreak control. The Chinese government has instituted a travel ban, prohibiting anyone from entering or exiting Wuhan and the surrounding areas. The ban affects 25 million people, although the mayor of Wuhan believes 5 million people succeeded in leaving the city. The mayor has offered to resign. Additionally, China’s government extended the Lunar New Year long weekend, allowing workers to stay home until February 3rd. Despite the actions taken, infectious disease specialists are expressing doubt about the usefulness of the travel ban. These specialists argue that it is impossible to quarantine a germ, and that travel bans make it more difficult for citizens to receive medical care. Within China, anger and unease are brewing. Critics
of China’s Government have taken advantage of the outbreak to post antigovernment content without immediate censure.
At Xavier, students are worried and seeking out information. Sophomore History Major, Andy Perry explained that his friends have been sending him updated information on the number of people who have fallen ill and that he’s using podcasts to learn more. “You’ve got to be a little worried because it is happening in the world but right now I’m not too concerned,” said Perry. “It’s been in the back of my mind the past few days though,” he added.
While the outbreak is certainly frightening, The CDC maintains their assessment that the risk to Americans is low. Still, health officials are advising everyone to wash their hands and ensure they receive their flu vaccination. In the United States, the flu kills over 30,000 and hospitalizes another 200,000 annually.