2020 kicked off with an unfortunate start for China with a deadly epidemic, Covid-19 better known as coronavirus spreading quickly throughout the world. Coronavirus refers to a family of viruses that affect animals. However, seven such viruses have now attacked humans. Although, still not as deadly and lethal as its predecessors; the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), the new virus is still pretty dangerous and spreading fast.
Where it originated
It is believed that the virus originated in a “wet market” in Wuhan, China where both dead and alive animals, fish and birds were sold. This market was densely packed and hygiene standards were not maintained. With live animals being butchered on the spot, the virus spread very quickly from animals to humans.
The shocking finding is that it is highly suspected that the original carriers of this virus are bats that were not sold in the Wuhan market but could have infected the chickens sold there.
The symptoms of Coronavirus are typical flu-like such as fever, runny nose, dry cough, sore throat, fatigue, and tiredness. It gets accompanied by shortness of breath as technically coronavirus is a respiratory disease. These symptoms are perceived to emerge between 2-10 days of coming in contact with the virus.
This virus can cause viral pneumonia and hence, antibiotics are of no use. It also leads to organ failure in more severe cases. As medicines are ineffective against this virus, only those with a strong immune system can fight it. The children and the elderly pose the highest risk as they have weak immunity.
How does the virus spread?
Similar to colds and flu, the virus spreads via droplets when the affected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets land on surfaces and are picked up through the hands of other people hence, spreading the virus far and wide.
The bad news is that it is highly suspicious that the virus can even spread by asymptomatic people, which means those people who carry the virus but have not experienced the symptoms as yet. If this is true, controlling the virus will pose to be even harder than suspected.
It is not yet proven if the virus is airborne; which means it lingers for some time in the air and then spreads through air conditioning and heating systems.
Cure for the coronavirus?
As mentioned before there is still no vaccine or cure for coronavirus. Doctors and researchers are trialing the existing drugs of Ebola and HIV in hopes to find a cure for corona in them. Early findings do seem positive, however, nothing concrete has been concluded as yet.
How to protect oneself
World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus a global emergency on January 30, 2020, and requested a coordinated response from all countries of the world.
Since there is no vaccine or anecdote for this virus yet, people are encouraged by WHO to follow the following safety standards:
- Basic hygiene of frequent handwashing with soap and water
- Cover mouth with an elbow when sneezing or coughing
- Social distancing” approximately three feet with anyone coughing or sneezing
- Not to touch face, eyes, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid unnecessary contact with animals
- Ensure to eat fully cooked meat
Do masks help?
The use of masks to protect against coronavirus has been hyped a lot lately. With people panicking and opting for masks even for their pets, the prices of masks in many countries have gone up. However, in reality, Dr. William Schaffner who is an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee told the media that a normal surgical mask will not help much against the coronavirus.
A more specialized mask called N95 respirator which is a thicker mask may protect against coronavirus. However, without the other important preventions such as handwashing and not touching your hands and face; any mask will be deemed useless.
Moreover, wearing such a thick mask day in and out makes breathing quite difficult and claustrophobic. It is recommended that if you wear the N95 mask, then remove it after 30-45 minutes intervals in an isolated room and take long, deep breaths.
However, due to the terror of Corona; people are grasping at loose straws and you see quite a lot of people roaming with the less effective surgical masks.
What is China doing?
There has been a widespread disruption in China due to this virus. Businesses, markets, and traveling; everything has been shut down in one of the world’s biggest economies. 20 cities of China face travel restrictions as several airlines have halted their flights to and from China. Residents of Wuhan have been evacuated. WHO experts have also arrived in China on February 10 to assess and investigate the virus.
Coronavirus is spreading fast with 87,000 cases reported until the 2nd March and death toll rising to 3,000. The disease has now spread to over 30 countries with the dominant ones after China being Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia.
In a turn of events, Italy has suddenly emerged with a large number of coronavirus cases that have resulted in the lockdown of the northern part of the country. Iran is also getting severely affected.
What are scientists doing?
Undoubtedly, researchers, doctors, and scientists are trying day and night to come up with an effective vaccine for the virus. However, likely, a vaccine will not be available for mass distribution until 2021!
Effect on the global economy
It quite matters of fact to say that coronavirus has impacted the world economy greatly and will continue to do so if it turns into a pandemic. With the virus originating in one of the superpowers and manufacturing and supply chain hubs of the world, any impact on the Chinese economy is sure to affect the world adversely.
With a large chunk of the country in lockdown, the virus can affect China’s economy by up to 42%! Chinese airlines are losing revenue by the minute as they have been forced to ground their planes. The effect on Chinese airlines is estimated to be a loss of $12.8 billion in revenue. The global loss of the airline industry is estimated to be $29 billion!
Coronavirus threat has also led to something unheard of before which is Saudia Arabia closing its two holiest Islamic cities; Makkah and Medina for pilgrimage in light of the fast-spreading virus. The closing of the Umrah visa is temporary but the government has not announced any time frame to re-open Umrah again. This is not only a huge blow to the Muslims but also a great loss of huge pilgrimage income to Saudia Arabia.
Other tourism markets have taken a hit and will continue doing so with people canceling many travel plans and pre-booked cruises. Countries with a larger outbreak of Corona cases such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Italy will lose out on profitable tourism revenue this year.
Researchers predict Corona to head into summers without much development of the vaccine. It is a wait and watches the game for the whole world to see how the negative effects of the virus trickle down on individual and global economies.