There have previously been cases of coronavirus, but not on this scale. Is it time for a new public health emergency?
The coronavirus: why is it concerning and how is it different?
In the last decades, the world has seen a few cases of pandemic coronavirus’ outbreaks.
Similar to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the new mysterious Chinese coronavirus is also suspected to have come from the animals-to-human transmission.
The outbreak’s centre is believed to be the Wuhan’s food market and although it shares many similarities with SARS, the new coronavirus is considered to be less deadly.
Wuhan, the capital city of the Chinese province of Central China’s Hubei, had the first case of the unknown virus three weeks ago.
But what exactly is coronavirus?
Named after its iconic shape (corona from Latin), the coronavirus can vary from a common cold to more severe illnesses, involving pneumonia and breathing difficulties.
Some coronaviruses can be quite concerning, like the SARS that has been reported to kill 1 out of 10 people who were infected. Fortunately, there have not been any known cases since 2004.
The coronaviruses usually have symptoms similar to the common cold (such as sore throat, headache and fever), which makes them harder to recognise.
Are experts concerned?
Although health officials have confirmed that the coronavirus (currently known as 2019-nCoV) is nowhere near as deadly as Ebola or SARS, the reasons for concern are due to the evolving behaviour of the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted the changing nature of the coronavirus and issued the possibility of the virus spreading differently over time.
A key concern is the different severity of the symptoms in the examined patients – while some of the affected have described serious illness, others have experienced only mild symptoms. That makes the recognition of the virus much harder, however, authorities are keen to stop the spread as soon as possible.
Should the public be concerned?
According to health organisations and state authorities, there is no main reason for concern.
Considering past outbreaks, health officials reassure that viruses that spread fast and easy often have a milder impact.
WHO has said it’s ‘too early’ to declare an international public health emergency. The last one was declared four years ago, with the outbreak of the Zika virus.
However, Beijing’s city government advise citizens to stay at home for two weeks if they come back from potential coronavirus’ contaminated areas.
This is a developing story, we will bring you more details as they come. Please refresh the page to receive the latest updates.