The virus is spreading fast around the globe, and though the city of Wuhan in China, where it emerged from back in December, is quarantined, several cases have been confirmed in other countries. And experts predict that the number of cases may be 5 to 10 times higher than what has been reported so far. So, should we be worried ?
WHAT IS THE CORONAVIRUS ?
The coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause a range of illnesses in humans, including common cold and more severe forms like pneumonia, which are life-threatening. The virus is named after its shape which takes the form of a crown. The recent outbreak of coronavirus is believed to have occurred in a seafood wholesale market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, who also serves as black market for wildlife animals. As of now, 106 people have died of the outbreak, and hundreds have been infected. Common signs of the infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough and breathing difficulties. The incubation period remains unknown, as very little is known about this new strain recently identified in humans. To this day, if infected, recovery will depend on the strength of each individual’s immune system.
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO STOP THE SPREADING ?
There is no vaccine for this new virus. So far, Chinese authorities have sealed of the city of Wuhan to contain the epidemic, and airports around the world have introduced screening measures. According to the WHO, the outbreak does not constitute a global emergency yet outside of China.
SHOULD WE WORRY ?
There are fears that the virus might spread more widely, a few days ago, when millions of Chinese travelled home to celebrate the lunar new year, but the festivities have lrgely been canceled and the country is in lockdown. Today, it appears that people in poor health are at greater risk, just as they are with the flu. Unless you have recently travelled to China, or come in contact with someone infected with the virus, you should treat any of the mentioned symptoms as normal cold, unless persistent. Washing hands regularly and keeping away from people is you feel unwell is important.
WHAT ABOUT LEBANON ?
The Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon is assuring that their epidemiological surveillance unit is preparing to deploy on the ground, and that the virus has not reached Lebanon so far, stating that the absence of direct flights from China to Lebanon has been a factor in preventing any infection. Beirut’s International airport issued a note to all airlines and ground services requesting all airlines transporting passengers from China and other countries in Asia to Lebanon to submit passengers’ forms to the airport quarantine department. Furthermore, a medical team is present at the airport to deal with any suspected case. However, Dr. Dbaibo of the Center for Infectious Diseases, stated to Annahar that Lebanon is not more immune that other countries, and that we should adopt a few measures such as monitoring incoming traffic from China and other countries with cases, and setting guidelines for physicians and hospitals.