The Wuhan coronavirus has already claimed the lives of at least 17 people, with hundreds of others falling severely ill from the virus. The coronavirus is named after the city of Wuhan in China, where the outbreak originated, a bustling urban center that is home to 11 million people.
However, in just a matter of a few weeks, the virus has spread to other Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai, as well as neighboring countries like Thailand and South Korea.
Reporters say that the tension in Wuhan is palpable, with most people opting to wear a face mask for added protection. Those who are traveling throughout the country face “temperature checkpoints” at many transportation centers as officials try to ensure that the contagious virus does not spread.
And on Tuesday, Jan. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a case of Wuhan virus in Washington State. The American man had recently returned from a trip to central China. In response, American officials plan to implement their own screening procedures at major airports across the country.
Where Did Wuhan Coronavirus Begin?
The Wuhan coronavirus is being called a “cousin” to SARS, a respiratory disease of zoonotic origin (meaning that it is a disease spread between animals and people). During 2002 and 2003, SARS infamously c vfxdzaq21laimed the lives of 774 people, most of whom lived in China and Hong Kong. Later, the disease outbreak was traced to Chinese bats, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says then spread to civet cats, and then to humans in the Guangdong province, as civet cats are often eaten in China.
Similarly, the Wuhan coronavirus is of zoonotic origin, as experts say that the likely source of the virus is the Huanan Wildlife and Seafood Market in Wuhan, where the virus found a fertile breeding ground.
These live wildlife markets (where people can buy everything from chickens and fish to more exotic animals, some sold as food while others are sold for their fur) may create a high risk for these types of contagious viruses.
“When you bring animals together in these unnatural situations, you have the risk of human diseases emerging,” disease ecologist Kevin Olival told National Geographic. “If the animals are housed in bad conditions under a lot of stress, it might create a better opportunity for them to shed virus and to be sick.”
Ian Lipkin, director of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, took it one step further. “If we were to shut the wildlife markets, a lot of these outbreaks would be a thing of the past,” he told National Geographic.
China has responded to the Wuhan virus by temporarily shutting down the trade of live animals at these “wet markets,” which is a term used to denote a marketplace that sells both live and dead animals.
What Are The Symptoms?
The symptoms of the Wuhan virus are similar to that of a common cold, and include a sore throat, dry cough, runny nose and headache. Fever is also one possible symptom, as is fluid in the lungs, similar to pneumonia.
Currently, the World Health Organization is still studying how this virus is transmitted, but they advise people to practice good hygiene, such as covering their coughs and washing their hands frequently, as well as avoiding contact with wildlife or farm animals without proper protection.
Medical professionals also advise that older individuals and those with weakened immune systems are at the highest risk when it comes to the Wuhan virus. It is believed that the “incubation” time for the Wuhan virus is two weeks, meaning a person will begin to exhibit symptoms within two weeks after contracting the virus.
At the moment, there is no vaccine for the illness, though it is worth noting that the first patient to contract the virus is now at home in stable condition.
Please consult with your physician if you have questions or concerns about the Wuhan virus, or how to best protect yourself and your family.