In these recent hours, communications are multiplying about the virus that is spreading in China.
But is this a real emergency? Here at Med4care, we want to give professional and non-sensationalistic answers to the population, so we will try to orient ourselves better and understand more, without getting caught by easy alarmism nor risking to underestimate possible risks. We will analyze the facts with a scientific approach.
On what sources do we base this information?
Here at Med4care, we usually give information based on recognized scientific studies that need time to be firstly produced by the authors and then reviewed by the editors of the scientific journals that publish them. These are, usually, our main sources. In this case, however, it is not possible to resort to truly “scientific” sources, because the situation is evolving so rapidly that there cannot be a clear and official scientific position at present, due to the quick developments. However, given that we have received requests from our public to develop the topic seriously and scientifically, it is for this reason that we are going to summarize and analyze the facts that we have been able to reconstruct.
Let’s analyze the news received so far on 25/01/2020.
- The virus has been spreading in China around the Hubei region, particularly in Wuhan city, from which it then spread throughout air routes to other states.
- Currently, out of 1287 cases of infections found in China, 41 victims have been recognized (source: Adnkronos news reporting a CCTV news source, Chinese state TV, 1/25/20)
- 56 million people are subjected to travel restrictions. The government closed public transport such as railway stations and cancelled numerous flights.
- The measures adopted by the Chinese government to face the crisis are substantial, with the rapid construction of two prefabricated hospitals in 10 days and an extraordinary dispatch of resources and personnel by other regions to the area of contagion – 1230 doctors arrived from Shanghai, Guangdong and military hospitals.
- The virus has already spread to other states, due to incoming flights departing Wuhan city. We report in the table below the data, state by state, accurate as of 25/1 sourced from the main newspapers:
|Country||Known Infections||Victims||Suspected Infections|
|China – Wuhan City||500+||39||THOUSANDS|
|China – Hubei||?||1||THOUSANDS|
|China – Heilongjiang||?||1||?|
|China – Total||1287||41||THOUSANDS|
The Virus – Characteristics
The virus called 2019-nCoV, is a Coronavirus type virus, an RNA virus. This type of virus usually infects both humans and animals, but each virus infects a specific host only, e.g. animal viruses are specialized in infecting only animals: cats, dogs, etc., each species has its own, while human viruses are those usually responsible for colds along with other viral species.
The Origin of the Chinese Virus
It appears that the virus originated not from a human, but from an animal coronavirus, specific of the bats, which then passed on to snakes and ultimately to humans. This is the conclusion reached by Chinese researchers from Beijing and Guanxi universities, through a genetic analysis conducted on samples from different host species of different locations in China. According to the researchers, the current virus is the result of a mix of one coronavirus from bats and another one from snakes.
The virus would “skip” a species, going from snakes to humans, acquiring new receptors to allow it to bind to the cells of humans’ respiratory system and the ability to then infect another human being.
The symptoms of this virus are similar to those of other human coronaviruses, such as:
- sore throat
In the most serious cases, which are a variable percentage and are still being studied, there is a widespread infection of the patient’s lungs, with consequent pneumonia which can be fatal in the most complicated cases.
At present, it seems that China’s mortality rate stands at 3% of the total infected population.
No precise data has been yet published. It seems that 14 days can be considered as the maximum potential incubation period.
The Official Position of the WHO
WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyseus stated during the Geneva WHO Emergency Committee meeting: “We are aware that there is a human-to-human transmission in China, but for now it seems limited to family groups and health workers. There is no current evidence of human-to-human transmission outside of China. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.” WHO has not yet declared the status of global health emergency, identifying the virus spread as an epidemic located in a specific area of China.
- Restricting the possibility of movement for the population of those areas affected by the virus.
- Checks in the main airports by establishing specific corridors of control, dedicated to measuring body temperature in particular.
There are no specific therapies against the virus. Generally, it is recommended to:
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, especially with mineral salts.
- Take medications to fight symptoms such as anti-inflammatory and analgesics.
A vaccine may be ready in about 3 months. This was stated by Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Following the explosion of the SARS virus, times for the vaccines’ production have been improved.
Currently working on developing a vaccine are:
- The Australian University of Queensland
- Two other pharmaceutical companies
- Russian team of researchers
Our team at Med4Care will carefully keep an eye on the evolving of this situation and will give you any required update
M. D. Marco De Nardin, Director