As the death toll in the newly discovered coronavirus touched 17 in China and with two confirmed cases reported in Thailand and one each in the US, Japan and South Korea, panic has spread across the globe with many countries subjecting incoming travelers from China to various tests.
The Hubei provincial government confirmed the death toll reaching 17 while authorities battled with the deadly disease in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, and other Chinese cities.
Health officials have expressed concerns that the deadly virus might spread in the wake of the upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations. So far the government has pegged the number of confirmed cases at 548. Authorities have confirmed that health workers who were helping infected patients have also contracted the illness.
CDC confirms first case of Wuhan coronavirus in US
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the first positive case of the fatal virus on US soil. Nancy Messonnier, CDC's director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the victim has been identified as a 30-year-old male from Snohomish County, Washington State, who returned from China on January 15.
"The patient is very healthy and currently being isolated at a medical center in the state "out of caution" and "poses little risk" to the public, the CDC said. "The man reached out to local health authorities last week once he started experiencing pneumonia-like symptoms."
What is Wuhan coronavirus?
The highly infectious virus that tends to transmit through the respiratory tract first came into the spotlight in December when the Wuhan Municipal Health and Health Committee stated that 27 confirmed cases of pneumonia, including seven critical, were reported in the city of Wuhan. By the first week of January, the figure shot up to 59 cases, raising concerns about the disease being classified as an epidemic.
Hailing from a family of coronavirus of deadly Sars and Mers viruses fame, the new strain of virus was never seen before. According to the World Health Organization, the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was identified as the causative virus by Chinese authorities on January 7.
What is the source?
Even though the coronavirus is usually associated with animals including livestock, pets and wild animals, the 2019-nCoV virus is believed to have come from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. The majority of patients either worked at the seafood market or were its customers. The virus' first victim, a 61-year-old man, was a frequent visitor to the seafood market. He was suffering from chronic liver disease and abdominal tumors.
Presently, health authorities in China are monitoring more than 1,300 residents who either went to the Wuhan market or were in contact with the infected people.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus are quite similar to the ones belonging to the same family. According to WHO, common signs of infection include respiratory problems, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. As the infection increases, the patient's lungs get inflamed and filled with fluid, detectable only through an X-ray. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Is the infection curable?
Even though scientists have not found a cure for battling the diseases triggered by the new virus, WHO has issued a standard set of instructions to prevent the infection from spreading.
It includes regular hand washing, covering the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
China's national health commission has confirmed that the virus is capable of spreading through human to human transmission, though not as frequently as it was during the Sars epidemic. With Wuhan reporting the initial cases, the number is increasing. Additional cases have been reported from Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Tianjin. It is highly probable that the extent may be even more.