Following a recent spike in reported deaths from the coronavirus (as well as an increase in the number of countries affected), we’re examining the latest on the new infectious disease
With at least 7,711 confirmed cases of coronavirus in China alone (170 of which have resulted in death), the World Health Organisation is meeting to discuss whether or not the virus constitutes a global health emergency.
The virus, which originated from a seafood market in the city of Wuhan, has now spread to at least 16 countries. Most recently, the Philippines reported its first known case this morning, while other cases have been confirmed in Germany, France, the United States, Canada, Australia, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka.
“The whole world needs to be on alert now,” said Dr Michael Ryan, the head of the WHO health emergencies programme. “The whole world needs to take action and be ready for any cases that come from the epicentre.”
The HSE says it is unlikely that the coronavirus will make it to Ireland, but insists it is fully equipped to handle the situation should it arise.
What is the coronavirus?
This coronavirus is part of a larger family of coronaviruses.
As this particular strain has never been identified in humans before, it is described as ‘a novel coronavirus’. Another well-known strain was SARS (or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which was on-the-go in Ireland in 2003.
According to the WHO, common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
As with the flu, those most severely affected by the coronavirus already have weak immune systems. For that reason, the elderly community and those with underlying health conditions (such as heart problems or diabetes) are more vulnerable.
What’s more, this strain can be transmitted from person to person in the same way a cold or flu would be. To prevent further spread of infection, health officials recommend regular hand washing, as well as covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. They also recommend avoiding close contact with anyone showing signs of respiratory illness.
There is currently no known cure or vaccine.
Evacuations from Wuhan
While the number of reported cases continues to shoot up in Wuhan, the number of cases elsewhere in the world is significantly lower. Not only that, but there have been no reported deaths outside of China.
With all commercial flights grounded, a number of countries have decided to evacuate their citizens from the affected area themselves. The USA and Japan, for example, have already sent planes for their citizens.
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he is “confident” he can secure plane seats for Irish people who want to leave. Those who wish to go will travel on a plane with any French citizens being evacuated. “Then, when they arrive back in Europe they will have to go through the appropriate health measures to ensure that they are not carrying infection and their healthcare needs are being looked after as they should be.”
Meanwhile, the UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab said he hopes British people will be evacuated from Wuhan on an emergency flight tonight.
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