Global fears over the coronavirus have caused major concern for the countries and international organizations. This newly identified coronavirus has been spreading in China very fast, and has now reached several other countries too. The number of confirmed cases and deaths is rising continuously. Health officials and agencies are on alert and working on all fronts to stop its spread.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory illnesses such as the common cold. Most people get infected with coronaviruses sometime in their lives, but symptoms are typically mild to moderate. Sometimes, the virus can cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
The first cases of the virus were reported in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, 2019. The virus has since then spread to other countries, such as Thailand, the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United States, Australia, Taiwan, France, among others.
The first U.S. case of the virus was confirmed on January 21 in Washington state in a man who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China. A second case is confirmed in a woman from Chicago who had also recently traveled to the city. Both of them are doing well now, officials said. According to officials, there are five confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. now.
More than 60 people in 22 states of the US are being investigated for a possible infection with the new virus, officials said on Friday, January 24. Eleven of those people had so far been tested negative for the coronavirus.
Chinese government has quarantined 40 million people in and around the city of Wuhan, where the disease outbreak started. The United States government is also working to evacuate all known U.S. citizens from the city and surrounding area to prevent possible infection.
More than 1,400 confirmed cases of the disease have been confirmed already.
Eric Toner, a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, is not shocked at all about how rapidly the infection is spreading. Just a few months ago, Toner did a hypothetical pandemic and found that a rapidly spreading disease similar to coronavirus could possibly infect people in every country within just six months. Toner also discovered that the disease could kill as many as 65 million people within just one and a half year.
"I have thought for a long time that the most likely virus that might cause a new pandemic would be a coronavirus," Toner said, according to Business Insider.
"We don't yet know how contagious it is. We know that it is being spread person to person, but we don't know to what extent," he explained. "An initial first impression is that this is significantly milder than SARS. So that's reassuring. On the other hand, it may be more transmissible than SARS, at least in the community setting."
Toner ran a simulation that did not specifically use the coronavirus, but a vaccine-resistant disease that is life-threatening and can spread easily. The simulation started in Brazil's pig farms (coronavirus originated in a food market that also sold live animals), then spread outward as more people contradicted the disease. After 18 months, 65 million people in the simulated perished.
Toner explained that rapid development of a vaccine, which scientists have already begun developing, can help prevent this spread.
"If we could make it so that we could have a vaccine within months rather than years or decades, that would be a game changer," he said.