China Reports New Virus Outbreak

Leslie Chen, Staff Writer

According to a study conducted by London’s Imperial College, a deadly new virus in China may be significantly more dangerous and widespread than officially reported. The mysterious virus, originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, has already caused the deaths of two people and affected at least forty others.Officials in China, as well as the World Health Organization, have concluded that the infection is a coronavirus. 

Coronaviruses are a broad family of viruses, and only six (the new one would make it seven) can infect people. Symptoms of this particular strand include difficulty breathing, coughing, fever, and pneumonia.

The study, conducted by MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College in London, estimated that at least 1,700 people could be unknowingly infected with the virus. According to the report, “It is likely that the Wuhan outbreak of a novel coronavirus has caused substantially more cases of moderate or severe respiratory illness than currently reported.” 

Scientists believe that this coronavirus originated from infected animals at a seafood and live wildlife market in Wuhan. While the outbreak is centered in Wuhan, there have been two cases in Thailand and one in Japan. Disease outbreak scientist Neil Ferguson believes this news is frightening: “For Wuhan to have exported three cases to other countries would imply that there would have to be many more cases than have been reported.” 

Chinese officials believe that the virus is spread from animals to people; however, Ferguson argued that person to person transmission should not be ruled out. “People should be considering the possibility of substantial human to human transmission more seriously than they have so far,” he said. “It would be unlikely in my mind, given what we know about coronaviruses, to have animal exposure be the primary cause of such a number of human infections.”

Although the situation is “too early to be alarmist,” Ferguson admitted that he was “substantially more concerned” than he was before.

Health authorities around the world were notified about the infection and were told to be aware of possible transmissions. The U.S. announced that it would start screening passengers from three major airports (San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York) arriving from flights from Wuhan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said it would deploy 100 people to take the temperatures and ask about symptoms from passengers aboard those flights. Airport officials from Asian countries like Japan and Singapore have announced that they would take extra precautions.

 

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