By Nicolas Deporcq-Pomerleau
Over the course of January 2020, the outbreak of a Coronavirus in the city of Wuhan, China has made international headlines. As of early February 2020, there are more than 28,000 cases confirmed, spread out in over 25 countries. In China, nearly 60 Million residents are on lockdown, as people in cities such as Wuhan and Huanggang have been quarantined. With a viral outbreak so massive, fear is inevitable. Many falsehoods have been circulating worldwide, causing many to misunderstand this virus and its origins. Furthermore, this recent coronavirus outbreak has been often compared to the 2003 SARS outbreak, which had also started in China. Here are some facts about the 2019 Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak and how it can be compared to the 2003 SARS pandemic.
A coronavirus is an umbrella term covering a large family of viruses which cause respiratory issues in humans. The mildest cases are simply common colds, while some more extreme cases include SARS-CoV, which will be discussed later. The current outbreak is classified as a Novel Coronavirus (nCoV), meaning it is a new strain that is yet to be studied. Generally, coronaviruses cause fever and respiratory issues, such as breathing difficulties and sometimes pneumonia. These viruses can be deadly, as serious cases may bring infections or kidney failures. The virus is airborne, making it highly dangerous to be around a virus carrier. Coronaviruses are also zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted between different animals and humans.
The coronavirus in question has been named 2019-nCoV, and is thought to have originated from Wuhan’s Huannan wet market. In this market, many live and exotic animals such as snakes, dogs, civets, and bats were sold both dead and alive. As bats are known carriers of coronaviruses, one theory suggests that this coronavirus strain was caused by bats sold in this market. As of now, the risk of contracting the 2019-nCoV is low for those not in China. However, precautions are always important. Proper hygiene is crucial, as regularly washing hands is one of the best ways to combat the virus. Avoiding all people showing symptoms is also very important. If travel to a contaminated area is absolutely necessary, a N95 facial mask can protect one from the virus. 2019-nCoV is particularly dangerous for the elderly, newborns, and those with respiratory diseases. As the incubation period can last up to 12 days and no treatment has been created specifically for this virus, the infection and death rates are alarmingly high. Furthermore, these two continue to grow as the virus spreads.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, abbreviated as SARS or SARS-CoV is a type of coronavirus. It is transmitted in the same way as the 2019-nCoV, and caused serious respiratory problems, particularly pneumonia. Its most important breakout was in 2003, where 8,096 people from 26 countries were infected, causing 774 deaths. The breakout has been traced back to Guangdong province, in southeastern China. Lack of knowledge about the transmission is what initially spread out the virus, however it was quickly contained with international efforts.
2003-SARS-CoV is comparable to the 2019-nCoV can be considered similar for many reasons. For one, both are coronaviruses, and have similar ways of spreading. They both bring similar symptoms. This being said, studying the causes and solutions to the 2003 SARS outbreak may be crucial in understanding and solving the current coronavirus outbreak. With the highly dense population of China and it’s facility to propagate, what will happen next with the 2019-nCoV is still unpredictable.