WHO monitors the progress of the new virus from China has already crossed two borders

scientists begin to call it the virus Wuhan, in reference to the chinese town where he was born. There, in a market, it is suspected that the micro-organism jum

WHO monitors the progress of the new virus from China has already crossed two borders

scientists begin to call it the virus Wuhan, in reference to the chinese town where he was born. There, in a market, it is suspected that the micro-organism jumped for the first time in any animal to a person. Since it was discovered, on the last day of 2019, has caused at least 41 infections, has claimed two lives (the second Thursday), and has already crossed two borders: first the of Thailand and, this Thursday, has come to Japan in the body of a man of 30 years who had been in the town of china, but not in your market. This begins to draw as possible a scenario that the researchers considered unlikely: that the virus able to be transmitted from human to human.

The World Health Organization (WHO) works with networks of experts and researchers to coordinate the surveillance, epidemiology, diagnosis, clinical care, treatments and routes of transmission of this virus, of the family of SARS. This, also originated in China, resulted in 2002 in the death of over 700 people. It was fatal in about 10% of cases, although it varied considerably among population groups: among the young there was no almost deaths, while among those older than 65 years reached the 50% of those infected.

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Although in principle, “it does not seem as worrisome as SARS”, in the words of the virologist Volker Thiel, scientists work on unraveling the complete sequence of the new microorganism to to know all its features and prepare a response. The international medical community knows that at any moment a new virus or its mutation can cause a severe pandemic in the world, the so-called “disease X”. Does not seem to be the case: the WHO has classified the risk of expansion as high within the country, moderate in the region and under globally. “But we must be prepared if the outbreak expands,” says Thiel, a researcher from the University of Bern.

The first case that came out of China was recorded last Monday in Thailand: a woman of 61 years remains stable, and that means that she was not in the market. Dozens of people in Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong who have become ill after a visit to Wuhan are or have been under surveillance, although for now none has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and their ailments were due to other pathogens. In the case of Japan, the patient spent four days in the hospital and was discharged Wednesday.

The who has pointed out that “it is not surprising” that there are still cases outside China and that “it is possible that you have more in the future”, and has called on all countries to improve the coordination and take extreme measures of prevention.

According to detailed Carrie Lam, chief Executive of Hong Kong, a team of experts in the territory have visited Wuhan, to obtain first-hand information about the outbreak, “at the invitation of the National Commission of Health.” Their latest data is encrypted, the total number of positive to date in 41, five of them serious condition, and 12 high, with 119 people to whom they are conducting medical follow-up. The first victim was a man of 61 years who died Saturday as a result of complications arising from the infection. The second death is a man of 69 years who presented with severe inflammation of the heart muscle, kidney failure, and damage in different organs. Those affected have shown symptoms similar to those of pneumonia, with a fever and difficulty breathing. Local authorities in Wuhan, ensure that there are no new positives in the soil of their homeland from the past January 3.

The task now is two-fold. On the one hand, on the ground, the closure of the market where occurred the outbreak aims to cut new transmissions. It is also necessary to trace other possible sources, that would be a possible cause for the infected not to set foot in this scenario. On the other, in the laboratories, after sequencing the virus to study its chain of 30,000 nucleotides for comparison with the existing viruses and to know their differences and similarities. It is known that it is a coronavirus of the family of the SARS and the MERS (respiratory syndrome in the Middle East) in 2015 ended with 449 lives, but not a mutation of these. Of the latter, carried by camels, there is a trickle of cases since then, always transmitted from these animals to humans.

The epidemics are much more complicated to tackle if they can spread among people, something that it is not yet clear in this case. This, says Elizabeth, Single, a researcher at the National Center of Biotechnology CSIC, depends on the mutations suffered by the virus, which are initially in animal reservoirs, very often of bats. “Coronaviruses have a sequence of RNA, which gives them a great genetic variability, and changes due to mutations and recombinations that give them new properties. If you see a change that gives you the capacity to infect an animal intermediate, the virus will jump. And the same goes between these and the human. But it is not enough that you have mutated, you have to have contact, an opportunity to make that jump,” explains One.

Concern before the chinese new year

The recent questions regarding the mechanisms of transmission of the virus have fuelled social concern. Even more taking into account the proximity of the chinese new year celebration that will take place on the 25th of January. On the occasion of this national holiday, it is tradition for people to return to the family home —while many others choose to travel out of the country— in the largest human migration in the world with more than 3,000 million journeys. In 2002, the chinese Government has already opted to reduce the one-week vacation just a day, to restrict the movements and reduce the chances of spread of SARS.

The experts suggest that the authorities of the region have learned the lesson, so the protocols developed then have already begun to be implemented. While in 2002, the reaction of the chinese Government was concealing the epidemic, on this occasion they have reacted quickly, putting into place a research team and applying insulation measures from the first moment.

The preparations for the exodus of the next week have already begun. The chinese hospitals accumulate material for protection and many have lifted chambers of isolation. Countries like Thailand —that during this festival typically receives about 800,000 chinese tourists—, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, or Singapore, all of them destinations usual, have launched their own security measures. It istas include the establishment of controls at all the airports that have connections to chinese cities and the installation of scanners terms to monitor the temperature of travelers.

Updated Date: 17 January 2020, 23:00

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