By Muhammad Siddiqui
The deadly Wuhan coronavirus has claimed at least 427 lives as China struggles to control the spread of the virus, according to a CNN live update service.
The outbreak is believed to have started in a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, located in the province of Hubei, according to TIME Magazine. While it was initially believed that the virus originated from animals, it was soon discovered that humans could spread the infection.
Chinese officials have suggested transmission of the disease can take place without patients exhibiting symptoms — this would make the Wuhan coronavirus the first respiratory illness with asymptomatic transmission if the reports are true, in a statement by Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as reported by Voice of America.
To prevent the spread of the infection, at least a dozen cities in Hubei, with a total population of 50 million, have been put on lockdown, according to New York Magazine. Streets that would have been bustling with the anticipation of the Chinese New Year are now empty as Chinese authorities attempt to prevent any further spread of the infection.
Public health experts fear that these measures may be too little and too late, as an estimated 5 million residents fled Wuhan after news of an impending lockdown. Instead of preventing further spread of disease, experts fear a lack of transportation in and out of the city will make it more difficult to treat those who are already infected and get basic necessities to those still residing in the city, according to The New York Times.
Many of those fearing infection have crowded the city’s hospitals. Doctors have been overwhelmed by the number of patients, with some seeing as many as 200 patients a day, according to another story by The New York Times. Hospitals in Wuhan have urgently requested more medical supplies.
Reactions of the people in Wuhan have been of frustration with the slow response of local authorities, according to The New York Times. Complaints of an inadequate response continue despite the mayor of Wuhan offering his resignation over alleged mishandling of the crisis and a visit to Wuhan from the country’s Primer, Li Keqiang, according to The New York Times.
While China struggles to handle its large number of cases, estimated at 4,500 across the nation, the disease has already crossed borders. A number of cases have been confirmed in Malaysia, Japan, France, Canada and the United States, according to The New York Times.
As of Jan. 28, the United States is dealing with five confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with another 110 persons under investigation, according to TIME Magazine. The CDC has recommended that U.S. citizens limit any unessential travel to China, and has implemented screenings for the virus at 20 airports which receive flights from Wuhan, according to Voice of America.
Though a vaccine for this virus does not yet exist, there is cautious optimism that one can be developed within the next several months. However, further trials would be needed before it could become available to the public, according to Voice of America.
Nonetheless, early numbers suggest that the Wuhan coronavirus has a lower mortality rate compared to the similar 2003 outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and that simple hand hygiene and face masks can reduce the risk of infection, according to New York Magazine.